No Child Left Behind (or NCLB) is a 2001 law signed by President George W. Bush that is intended to hold public schools accountable for their students' test scores.
Under the law, a school whose students consistently fail standardized tests will be subject to disciplinary action, including giving vouchers to the students to study at more efficient private schools or even firing the administration and teachers of the school and having the state government assume control.
It also requires schools to allow displaced students to finish out the school year, which has been lauded by outreach counselors. The law has been claimed to be effective in ensuring that underprivileged youth receive the same standard of education as every other student by some, but many teachers say that the standards are not an accurate measure of student or district performance.
No Child Left Behind applies only to "Title I" public schools, which are typically schools having at least 40% of their students from low-income families, as defined by the United States Census.
- The scores of students who move into the district just before the standardized test are counted with the others'. For instance, a school could be penalized if a child of illegal immigrants moved into the district and scored poorly.
- There is little leeway allowed for mentally disabled students, non-native English speakers, students with emotional problems, etc. The test scores are looked at with no interpretive data.
- Not only must the school have high test scores, each racial group must as well. A school could be penalized if their minority students perform poorly, even if they make up a small fraction of the overall school population.
- Teachers must sacrifice class time to prepare students for the test, practice the test, and give the test. Many teachers feel they are 'teaching the test' instead of the curriculum.
- Standardized tests often reflect how well a student can take a standardized test, not their critical thinking or problem solving abilities.
- NCLB hurts dropout prevention. High schools are less likely to encourage low functioning students to stay in school, if their test scores will penalize the district.
- Students have no stake in the exam. It does not affect their grades nor appear on their transcript, which does not excourage students to try very hard.
- As of 2007, all states have failed to meet the teacher qualification standards outlined in NCLB.
- There is no national standardized test, and results can vary wildly. For instance, a child who scores 'proficient' in Mississippi reading test would fail the Massachusetts test. A child who scored 'proficient' in the Tennessee math test would fail the Missouri test.
- Students suffer no penalty nor gain any reward for test results. A high school student could deliberately fail a test with no punishment. Some states and districts are looking into changing this.
- NCLB places no emphasis on the fine arts. A student who is brilliant at music but poor in science would be viewed as a total failure.