All states have responded to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by writing learning standards for K–12. Many states have also written standards for preschool education. In addition, a federal early childhood initiative, Good Start, Grow Smart, encourages states to voluntarily develop early learning guidelines.14 While the guidelines themselves are voluntary, they are a condition for receiving funding through the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant. This accounts for why most states have written or are writing preschool guidelines.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was intended to significantly reform K–12 education. Since its passage, it has radically and rapidly changed how America conducts its educational business. NCLB emphasizes state and district accountability, mandates state standards for what children should know and be able to do, puts in place a comprehensive program of testing in grades three to twelve, and encourages schools to use teaching methods that have demonstrated their ability to help children learn.
The NCLB Act targets six fundamental areas:
- Programs that work (based on scientific research),
- Professional development,
- Educational technology, and
- Parental involvement.
NCLB is a significant educational act that will continue to influence what and how you teach for many years to come. The act has influenced pre-kindergarten education because there is a major emphasis on getting children ready for school. Many federally funded programs now use guidelines and mandates in the No Child Left Behind Act to develop goals and objectives for their own programs. In other words, all facets of programs that serve young children have been and will continue to be influenced by the NCLB.
According to the federal government, NCLB is making a difference in the lives of children. For example, the most recent national test scores show that:
- In reading, nine-year-olds have made larger gains in the past five years than at any point in the previous twenty-eight years.
- In math, nine-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds earned the highest scores in the history of the test.
- In both reading and math, African American and Hispanic students are scoring higher, and are beginning to close the achievement gap with their Caucasian peers.15
Two NCLB programs that specifically influence the early childhood grades pre-K–3 are Reading First and Early Reading First.
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