No Child Left Behind 10 Years Later

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Pub. L. No. 107–110) which President George W. Bush signed into law on January 8, 2012 changing how school districts educate America’s students. In remarks on signing the bill made at a public school in Ohio, President Bush said:

The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning. I read a quote one time from a young lady in New York. She said, ‘‘I don’t ever remember taking an exam. They just kept passing me along. I ended up dropping out in the seventh grade. I basically felt nobody cared.’’

The story of children being just shuffled through the system is one of the saddest stories of America. ‘‘Let’s just move them through.’’ It’s so much easier to move a child through than trying to figure out how to solve a child’s problems.

Recent reports question whether No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has lived up to that promise. For example, the January 2010 report Test, Punish, and Push Out: How Zero Tolerance and High-Stakes Testing Funnel Youth into the School to Prison Pipeline provides an overview of zero-tolerance school discipline and high-stakes testing, how they relate to each other, and how NCLB have made school discipline even more punitive. The report explores:

  • The common origins and ideological roots of zero tolerance and high-stakes testing
  • The current state of zero-tolerance school discipline across the country, including local, state, and national data
  • How high-stakes testing affects students, educators, and schools
  • How zero tolerance and high-stakes testing have become mutually reinforcing, combining to push huge numbers of students out of school; and
  • Successful grassroots efforts to eliminate harmful discipline and testing practices.

A November 2011 Justice Policy Institute report Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools note that at the same time that No Child Left Behind has become part of school systems, zero tolerance policies and the use of SROs have only grown in popularity. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities’ entire police force.

The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection several books dealing with NCLB including No Child Left Behind: A Guide for Professionals by Mitchell L. Yell and Erik Drasgow (Call #LB2806.22 .Y45 2005). See also Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools edited by Deborah Meier and George Wood (Call #LB2806.22 .M36 2004) which says that far from improving public schools and increasing the ability of the system to serve poor and minority children, the law is doing exactly the opposite.