issue guide: No Child Left Behind

Pro & Con

see also the skinny, background & facts, links


The supporters of NCLB's rigorous testing and accountability measures take the position that all students can and should be proficient in reading and math. The act sets up the final goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 and lets states set the milestones for arriving at that goal.

While critics of the act says it unfairly penalizes schools that don't progress fast enough, the act does give schools five years from the time they are tagged as needing to improve to turn things around – only after the fifth year are they forced to dismantle a school and rebuild it from scratch.

The act also gives individual families a lifeline if their child is in a struggling school – by requiring that their school district offer a transfer to a better school or offer tutoring if the school fails to improve fast enough.

To counter complaints that the federal government has not fully funded NCLB, supporters point out that under Bush, funding for public schools has jumped 50% - up from $8.8 billion in 2001 to $12.3 billion in 2004.


NCLB's critics say the law's rigorous standards unfairly penalize schools that are progressing, but not progressing fast enough. Schools may be turning themselves around, but if a small subgroup is not improving at the required rate that could land a school on the school improvement list – and later to being dismantled.

Many educators also take the position that a system based on test taking is flawed because tests aren't always the best ways to see if students are learning. An even stronger criticism is that when tests make or break a school, schools will “teach to the test” – in other words spend more time on test preparation rather than develop, for example, students' critical analysis skills or creative talents.

While some school districts don't have a problem with NCLB's demands, they do complain that federal government doesn't pay enough to put all the act's requirements in place. Earlier versions of the No Child Left Behind act gave states large sums of money without the extra testing demands, and without requirements to offer and pay for transfers and tutoring. While NCLB did increase funding, school districts say they didn't give enough to cover the additional administrative, tutoring and transportation costs required in the bill.

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

No Child Left Behind is a

No Child Left Behind is a failure. Our whole system of education is in trouble. All of the stakeholders are all at fault -- a third of our children don't graduate from high school. That is appalling.

a random Joe (not verified) | March 10, 2009 - 4:07pm


When did congress and the president get the power to regulate schools and what should be deemed as proficient performance? I believe that this power is left up to the states, and the states alone to regulate schools. There is no clause in the powers of congress that allows them to stretch their power to embody school curriculum. The feds need to step back and focus on issues they actually have control over.

J (not verified) | September 23, 2008 - 12:50am