McCune, Sara

Policy Speech: No Child Left Behind


Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) in January 2002, its policies have disadvantaged many exceptional children. I will argue that the Government should thoroughly revise NCLB using the Joint Organizational Statement in order to give every child the quality education they deserve.


1) NCLB has a very broad scope. NCLB is a US policy designed to improve the performance of students within all federally funded primary and secondary schools. In order to continue receiving federal funding, all schools must comply with the regulations and standards imposed by the Department of Education.


2) NCLB has reduced both learning and effective instruction within the US public school system in several ways. 

  • Is drastically underfunded, shortchanging our students and public school systems.

According to the National Education Association in February 2008,

“In the seven years of funding provided for NCLB (Fiscal Years 2002-2008), the cumulative funding gap between actual funding and the amounts authorized in the law has grown to a staggering $70.9 billion. President Bush's proposed FY 09 budget would increase that gap to $85.7 billion.”

This lack of funding prevents the school from implementing programs necessary for the success of our children. (Reflected in the slowing of achievement gains)

b)   Has been shown to slow student achievement gains.

Bruce Fuller, lead author and professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley stated (July 30, 2007),

“The slowing of achievement gains, even declines in reading, since 2002 suggests that state-led accountability efforts—well underway by the mid-1990s—packed more of a punch in raising student performance, compared with the flattening-out of scores during the ‘No Child’ era.” He goes on to say that NCLB, “has forced schools to drill kids and emphasize testing at the expense of other learning,” contributing to the decrease in student achievement.

According to a July 2007 article in the Educational Researcher,

"progress in raising test scores was stronger before No Child Left Behind was approved in 2002, compared with the four years following enactment of the law.  Following passage of the ‘No Child’ law, federal reading scores among elementary school students declined in the 12 states tracked by the researchers – after climbing steadily during the 1990s.”

In addition to slowing achievement in main subjects like reading and math, NCLB has also…

c)   Has narrowed the curriculum, preventing students from learning the variety of information necessary for a strong foundation.

According to a July 2007 Center on Education Policy report, 

“44 percent of school districts reported cutting time from one or more other subjects or activities (social studies, science, art and music, physical education, lunch and/or recess) at the elementary level to devote more time to reading and math.”

Jack Jennings, CEO of the Center on Education Policy, said July 25, 2007,

“What gets tested gets taught. Under No Child Left Behind, there is reading and math and then there is everything else. And because there is so much riding on the reading and math included on state tests, many schools have cut back time on other important subject areas, which means that some students are not receiving a broad curriculum.”

This limited curriculum leaves students unprepared for life in the real world.

According to a news article on USA Today written in June 2007,

“States that don't push students to meet higher standards risk sending them into the work world unprepared — even as global competition increases. More than half of 250 employers surveyed in 2006 said high school graduates are deficient at writing in English, foreign languages and math skills. ‘The future U.S. workforce is here — and it is woefully ill-prepared,’ concluded the report called Are They Really Ready To Work?”


3) I propose reworking NCLB using the Joint Organizational Statement to hold the policy accountable for its claims and goals in an attempt to prevent further damage to our students and public schools by providing necessary funding, increasing student achievement, and broadening the curriculum.

a)    To provide the funding necessary to implement the programs targeted at improving student performance.

The Joint Organizational Statement (Updated April 2008) says their proposal would,

“Raise authorized levels of NCLB funding to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that states and districts will incur to carry out these recommendations, and fully fund the law at those levels without reducing expenditures for other education programs.”

This increase in funds will allow schools to develop programs that will facilitate learning.

b)    To increase the rate of student achievement gains.

The JOS would reauthorize the power of the states to work towards higher student achievement gains with federal reward incentives but without drastic punitive measures.

According to the National Association of State Boards of Education at their 2006 Winter Meeting 

“…states have set higher standards for students and followed through with substantially increased funding to support districts and schools in helping students to reach those standards…NCLB should be amended to offer states rewards or incentives for raising student performance and holding schools to high standards.

Higher overall student achievement will provide children with the tools they need in order to build a successful and fulfilling future.

c)     To broaden the curriculum, giving students the opportunity to expand their education and learn beyond the test.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama appreciates the flexibility provided in the Joint Organizational Statement (April 1, 2008), advocating for a model that provides a “broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present and defend their ideas.” He believes, “we should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests.”


While NCLB establishes many important goals that most everyone can agree with, it lacks the structure and funding it needs for success. By altering and supplementing the current NCLB policy with the ideas outlined in the Joint Organizational Statement, we can turn these goals into realities.


1)    If schools participate in the programs demanded by the NCLB, they will receive the funding necessary to provide good educational opportunities.

a) This has not been the case.

Ted Kennedy, the legislation’s initial sponsor stated, “The tragedy is that these

long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.” According to Susan B. Neuman, Bush’s former Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education (May 2004), “In [the most disadvantaged schools] in America, even the most earnest teacher has often given up because they lack every available resource that could possibly make a difference. . . . When we say all children can achieve and then not give them the additional resources . . . we are creating a fantasy.”

b) This huge lack of funding shows that even schools complying with the programs and regulations outlined in NCLB will not be able to receive the funding they need.

2)    The tests are designed to target the most important parts of an education. It does not matter that less important subjects/programs are deemphasized.

a) It does matter. A well rounded education is crucial for the health of a child’s mind and body.

According to a CNN article written by Helyn Trickey (June 2007), “A national study by the Center on Public Education published earlier this year on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind law found that 71 percent of the districts surveyed had elementary schools that cut back on instructional time for [physical education, elementary social studies, arts, and foreign languages] to make room for more reading and math -- the primary focus of the law.”

b) Revisions to NCLB would decrease the emphasis on testing, and thus allow schools to emphasize subjects outside of those on standardized tests.

3)    NCLB will narrow the gaps between race and class by maintaining common expectations for everyone.

a) It does nothing to decrease the gaps.

According to a Civil Rights Feature Article written by Dana Goldstein on September 19th, 2007,

“There are many remedies to school segregation, including redistricting, busing, and locating subsidized, affordable housing inside middle-class and wealthy residential enclaves. None of these were recommended in the original NCLB legislation… white-majority schools were given no directive or incentive to open their gates to the poor children who desperately need their resources, and who often live just a few miles away.”

b) This increased segregation will compromise the future of the children

4)    Federally mandated testing increases public school accountability.

a) Testing has not been shown to increase accountability because school systems have lowered their testing standards in order to avoid punishment.

According to an article written on on January 13, 2007, “The No Child Left Behind act is encouraging states to set low standards so schools can avoid consequences that come with missing annual progress goals.”

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said it is understandable that some states would set low standards. "They're trying to make sense out of this. They're trying to survive," he said.

A study by the Washington-based children's advocacy group EdTrust showed 89 percent of fourth-graders in Mississippi were deemed proficient or better in reading on recent state tests. Meanwhile, only 18 percent reached that level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress—the gold-standard of scholastic achievement in the United States.

b) The reworking of NCLB would set up a system of accountability that does not rely on state or federal testing so as to actually ensure good education systems in every federally funded school.

5)    NCLB actually increases federal funding for public schools.

a)     Although the text of the act has an increase in federal funding, this has not happened in practice.

According to the American Federation of Teachers in May 2007,

“Neither the Senate nor the White House has even requested federal funding up to the authorized levels for several of the act’s main provisions. For example, President Bush requested only $13.3 of a possible $22.75 billion in 2006.” Additionally the Center for American Progress noted on October 15, 2007 that “President Bush's 2008 budget allots $61 billion for the Education Department, cutting funding by $1.3 billion from last year. 44 out of 50 states would receive reductions in federal funding if the budget passes as is.”

b)  The reworking of NCLB would ensure funding, rather than leaving a large part of it up to the government on a year-by-year basis.

6)   The Joint Organizational Statement would cost taxpayers more money.

Yes, the JOS will cost more money. The education and future of our children, however, make these extra funds entirely worthwhile.

According to the Forum on Educational Accountability in April of 2008,

“With federal support, all NCLB-funded schools would implement high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators, involve parents more deeply in school improvement, and enable families to better participate in their children’s education…Congress can take a critical step toward improving learning and actually leaving no child behind by supporting [the JOS] and providing adequate funding for them.”

We can significantly brighten the future of our children if we provide them with the funding that they absolutely deserve.

7)    The JOS increases federal interference with a state/local issue.

The JOS does not promote more federal interference than outlined in the original NCLB Act.

According to the National Association of State Boards of Education at their 2006 Winter Meeting,

a renewed state-federal partnership that promotes innovation and provides flexibility, while holding education accountable, to ensure that the law is working for the states, school districts, and most importantly, our nation’s students.” Recommendations would, “amend NCLB to support, recognize, and reinforce gubernatorial and state education agency ‘states’ authority over K-12 education.”

Although the JOS would not eliminate this interference, it would increase its effectiveness while reemphasizing the power of the state. 

8)    The JOS is too much of a bureaucracy—let’s just let teachers teach.

The JOS is not a bureaucratic system. State and local governments and school districts will be independently responsible for designing systems that will work for their schools without the oversight of a bureaucracy.

According to the JOS changes outlined in the legislative proposal written by the Forum on Educational Accountablity on March 30, 2007,

“The key changes required are those that will build the capacity of the schools to effectively educate all children…specifically those include enabling schools to: design and conduct high quality professional development programs; provide for ongoing collaboration among educators so that instructional staff can more effectively address students’ needs…”

Teachers would have a great deal more freedom to design programs that will aid their classrooms under the JOS.

9) The JOS will hurt the educational system by forcing more standards. Standards are the problem because they stifle creativity.

The JOS does not enforce more standards.

According to a legislative proposal written by the Forum on Educational Accountability on March 30th, 2007, the JOS would allow for teachers to focus on teaching and learning rather than meeting specific standards,

“The law’s emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to

raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making

the systemic changes that improve student achievement. This would

enable schools, districts and states to focus on implementing the key

changes needed throughout the educational system to improve teaching

and learning rather than focusing, as now, on avoiding sanctions.”

This increase in flexibility would allow for teachers and students to use their creativity.