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What Our Nation’s No Child Left Behind Policy Is


No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is always a big topic of conversation in Washington, but now that the policy is more than a decade old, we wonder how many Missouri parents know, in detail, what NCLB is. Here on the MOParent Blog, we’ll break NCLB down into its core components, and next we’ll talk about what each of those components means to our students.

It’s our goal to keep you informed about legislative and funding issues that affect children in Missouri’s public schools. We hope that this two-part post on No Child Left Behind helps you to better-understand in this important federal educational initiative and the impact it has on Missouri’s K-12 public school students.

What is No Child Left Behind?
No Child Left Behind is a federal law that was enacted with bipartisan support as one of the first Congressional initiatives of President George W. Bush in 2001. NCLB is a standards-based education reform initiative that is built “on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.” (Source)

NCLB didn’t begin with President Bush, though. It began as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The ESEA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson hoped that ESEA would help close the education gap between the nation’s underserved and vulnerable students and those in better-served, more stable districts and schools.

When NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001, it was passed as a re-authorization of President Johnson’s ESEA. In other words, NCLB was the new name given to the updated and re-authorized version of a well-established federal education act.

NCLB isn’t a federally mandated program. In other words, states aren’t formally required to participate in NCLB. NCLB is, however, tied directly to federal funding: schools that wish to receive federal funding must meet NCLB standards. NCLB significantly increased the involvement — albeit the indirect involvement — of the federal government in public education.

The federal government’s involvement in public education is the source of much of the controversy surrounding NCLB. While the program has the well-meaning intention of closing achievement gaps by ensuring that all American public school students have access to high-quality education, many state and local school leaders and community members believe that education policy should be kept at the state level.

NCLB calls for states to implement standardized testing in key subject areas, and to provide annual progress updates to the federal government. In addition, schools, districts, and states are required to make annual “Report Cards” publicly accessible to the parents and the larger community. Finally, NCLB requires that core academic area teachers be “highly qualified”. Since NCLB’s passage in 2001 by Congress, the federal education budget has increased from $42.2 billion to $141 billion.

To learn more about NCLB’s standardized testing, school report cards, teacher qualifications, and funding changes, come back tomorrow to the Missouri Parent Blog. We’ll explain each of these four NCLB policy components, and what each of them means to our public school students.

This is part one in a two-part post on No Child Left Behind. Come back to the Missouri Parent Blog to learn about how NCLB affects our students, and connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates on Missouri education policy and funding issues.

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