NCLB Discussion (page 2)
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.
- Provides grants to states to help schools and school districts improve children’s reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction.
- Funds professional development, scientifically based instructional programs, materials, and strategies, valid and reliable screening, diagnostic and ongoing classroom assessments, and statewide accountability and leadership structures.
- Under the NCLB Act, funding for fiscal years 2002 through 2005 amounted to $3.96 billion for Reading First and $348 million for Early Reading First.16
Early Reading First
- Enhances children’s language, cognitive, and early reading skills through professional development for teachers.
- Provides early language and reading development and instructional materials as developed from scientifically based reading research.
- Provides preschool-age children with cognitive learning opportunities in high-quality language and literature-rich environments.
- Uses screening assessments to effectively identify preschool children who may be at risk for reading failure.
- Improves existing early childhood programs by integrating scientifically based reading research into all aspects of the program (including instructional materials, teaching strategies, curricula, parent engagement, ande professional development).17
According to Amy Holcombe, Ph.D., principal of Falkener Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina, federally funded schools have benefited from the NCLB legislation in many ways:
- NCLB requires that all teachers working in Title I schools be highly qualified. Previously, lateral entry or uncertified teachers could work as teaching faculty at federally funded schools. Now that this is no longer allowed, teaching faculty at federally funded schools are 100 percent highly qualified.
- NCLB provides for federal funding for each student qualifying for a free or reduced-price lunch. With this funding, Title I schools are able to purchase many additional resources including teaching faculty, instructional supplies, professional development, student field trips, and parental involvement activities.
- NCLB has generated a more focused approach to teaching to the individual needs of students. Previously, if a school’s overall percentage of on-grade-level students was high, they were considered to be performing well. Now that those data are disaggregated by subgroup, it has become apparent that some schools are not meeting the needs of all students equally. In an effort to meet the requirements of NCLB, schools are utilizing research-based strategies to ensure that students are receiving individualized instruction designed to meet their learning needs.
14. The White House, Good Start, Grow Smart: The Bush Administration's Early Childcare Initiative, 2002, http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/earlychildhood/earlychildhood.html.
15. The White House, The No Child Left Behind Act: Challenging Students Through High Expectations, October 2006, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061005-2.html.
16. U.S. Department of Education, Reading First: Over $4.3 Billion to Improve the Reading Skills of Young Children, 2005, http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/nclb-reading-first.html.
17. U.S. Department of Education, Early Reading First, 2006, http://www.ed.gov/program/earlyreadingindex.html.
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