As a response to the federal legislation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, educational programs in the US have had to retool methodologies and programs in basic education. According to the US Department of Education (2004), the changes are not so much to for the federal government to establish an absolute uniform educational programs but to establish a common range of objectives, measures of performance and incentives for each’ states education initiative.
It should be noted however that the response of educational systems in the US during the time frame of the legislation of NCLB is not exclusive to the act since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2007) had also called for similar reforms as part of its millennium social reform agenda. It can be then anticipated that the greatest impact of the 2001 NCLB Act will be observed in the redevelopment of skills and performance standards, relationship of state education programs and funding of institutions.
The re-tooling of standardized test has focused on the assessment of basic skills particularly language and reading skills. At the same time, there was greater emphasis on the utilization of testing to develop research and professional performance standards as a means to validate interventions as well as increase the relevance of methodologies to the actual performance of students (Haney, 2007). Allowance for students whose first language is not English were also given a year’s reprise before standardized testing to ensure that shifting from their first languages does not distort performance results.
Another consequence of the measures is that professional requirements had been made homogeneous to ensure that variances in student performance were not dependent on teachers or scholastic settings. Assessment of teachers are required to comply with high objective uniform state standard of evaluation (HOUSSE) for all basic subjects and professional development programs set by their respective schools and by the state (U. S. Department of Education, 2004). Schools were also encouraged to develop collaborative programs to support NCLB objectives.
Combining project READ and Guided Reading to improve at-risk students’ literacy skills to support the NCLB Act of 2001, systematic, concept-based, multi-sensory approach to teaching phonemic awareness or READ project, to reinforce literacy (Bruce et al, 2002). The conclusion suggested that combining the two perspectives has been effective in improving the literacy of at-risk students and required little change in the students’ curricula: both top-down and bottom-up strategies, encouraging insights and student collaboration with teachers.
On the other hand, the NCLB has also raised the stakes of state educational performance but allows for no prescription for actual methodologies given rise to wide-raging curriculums for classes (Hauerwas and Walker, 2004). Haney (2007) pints out that in the case of Florida, though the provisions of the NCLB were influential in increasing performance levels, there should be recognition that the commitment to do so was greatly influenced by the need to outperform other states to gain federal funding or allocations.
Most of the critiques for the NCLB Act have focused on it creating unhealthy competition amongst state educational programs and the manipulation of state performance standards in the interest of federal funding. Majority of the funds that can be allocated through the NCLB Act are based on performance of standardized tests (U. S. Department of Education, 2004). There is an underlying assumption of non-performance equating to non-compliance with the NCLB statutes. Subsequently, there have also been concerns that this will contravene the objective of the NCLB to insure the education of all students in the interest of securing federal funding.