What the No Child Left Behind law means for your child
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Does Tutoring Work?
A 2006 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on how the tutoring services requirement of NCLB is working recommends that the federal government help states evaluate whether tutoring is improving student achievement because no state has done this conclusively.
By GreatSchools Staff
What Schools Must Tell Parents
All schools and districts are required to make annual report cards available to the public. The report cards must include details on:
- Student academic achievement for all student groups
- A comparison of students at the basic, proficient and advanced levels of academic achievement within the school district and compared to other students statewide
- High school graduation rates and dropout rates
- The professional qualifications of teachers
- The percentage of students not tested
- The names of schools identified as "in need of improvement"
The U.S. Department of Education also requires states to participate in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math assessments of fourth- and eighth-grade students every two years. These tests allow parents to compare how students are performing in different states. The NAEP results must also be included on school and district report cards.
What Parents Can Do
The No Child Left Behind law was designed to hold schools more accountable and empower parents. Here are some steps you can take to make the law work for your child:
- Find out how your school is performing. You don't need to wait for the school report card to be issued; you can discover a great deal about your school by reading its school profile on GreatSchools.org. You can compare your school's performance to other schools by using our Compare Schools feature. To get an idea of how your school is performing nationally, visit the NAEP Web site.
- If you suspect your school may be a failing school, ask your principal or superintendent to clarify its status. If it is a failing school, thoroughly investigate your options for tutoring help or transfer.
- Ask your school principal what the school is doing to help close any achievement gaps between different groups of students. For example, if the test results of English language learners significantly lag other groups in the school, your school should have a plan designed to give those students extra help. Your school will be judged on the performance of students in all groups, not just schoolwide results.
- Ask what your school is doing to attract, train and keep well-qualified teachers.
- Find out if your district has applied for a "Reading First" grant and how it intends to spend the money.
- Ask about your state's Unsafe School Choice Option and whether state officials have certified in writing to the U.S. Secretary of Education that your state is in compliance with this provision as a condition of receiving funds under No Child Left Behind.
How the Law is Working
The nonprofit, independent Center on Education Policy releases annual report cards on NCLB. The organization, which advocates for public schools, surveyed education officials in 50 states and gave the law a mixed report card in 2006. The center concluded that as a result of the law:
- Districts are better aligning classroom teaching with state academic standards.
- Principals and teachers are making better use of test results to improve teaching.
- Scores on states tests are higher in a large majority of states and school districts.
- Teachers report high stress levels and poor staff morale because of the pressure to improve scores.
- Most school districts are cutting back on social studies, science, art or other subjects to make more time for reading and math, the subjects that are tested.
- The effect on achievement gaps between groups of students of different races or ethnicities is unclear. While most states and districts reported that the achievement gap in test results had narrowed or stayed the same, the center's own case studies did not find the same results. As a result, the study concluded, it is "impossible to reach an overall conclusion about achievement gaps."
In a harsher report, the The Civil Rights Project, formerly known as the Harvard Civil Rights Project, concluded in 2006 that NCLB is failing to close the achievement gap, won't make its 2014 goals and has not significantly improved reading and math achievement.
Federal education officials dispute these conclusions.