Whatever Happened to No Child Left Behind?

AP Photo/LM Otero

Remember when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was signed into law in 2002 by former President George W. Bush? The intention of NCLB was to hold schools accountable to ensure that all students were granted similar opportunities regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.

Although NCLB had good intentions, it produced unintended consequences such as high stakes testing and tethering funds with performance on high stakes tests.

In 2015, NCLB was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which sought to meet similar goals. Although the objective of both of these laws was and still is to make sure all students, regardless of race, gender, and socioeconomic status, receive an equal chance to learn and grow in school, they have failed miserably.

Fast forward to 2021. We have seen that those in positions of power have used COVID-19 as leverage for money, power, or whatever else can be used to their benefit, regardless of the damage these decisions have wrought on millions of American families.

We saw schools unnecessarily close (and remain closed) even though children are extremely unlikely to transmit the virus to adults. We also saw a huge switch to online learning, which has had huge negative drawbacks.

Moreover, the online learning situation, which has been in place for more than a year, has had a devastating effect on teachers who have no way to cater to the unique needs and circumstances of their students.

We have seen schools try to re-open. However, the federal and most state governments have done little to encourage or help (providing PPE, or funding intended to upgrade facilities) schools reopen. This comes even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is safe for schools to reopen.

With all of this, it is our children who have suffered the most. Our children seem to have been put on the back burner during this pandemic, with all focus going to teachers, unions, and the schools. The children are the ones being forgotten and left behind.

More and more children are falling further and further behind due to this pandemic for several reasons, such as lack of support, inability to receive differentiated educational instruction, and less access to quality instruction. Not all children have access to the internet, computers, or even a space to sit and learn.

Another reason, and one of the main ones for children getting left behind, is that online learning is much less capable of meeting individual learning styles. One of the first things I learned in college while training to become a teacher was that each student learns very differently and that it is necessary to differentiate your teaching methods for each student. Without this, it is impossible to make sure every child progresses accordingly. This is arguably a large part of why so many children are being left behind.

Unfortunately, a majority of the children being left behind are those with special needs. These children need a specific environment or someone whose skills are specifically suited to teaching those students. As most people would agree, it takes a lot of expertise and patience to teach students with disabilities. Most parents of these children do not have this skill set or these teaching aides, and thus rely on the schools to help teach their children.

So again, I ask, what happened to No Child Left Behind?

Over the past year, too many of our children have been left behind. It is time we put children first, open our schools, and actually make sure that no child is left behind.

Jeffrey Van Cleave ([email protected]) has a background in educational studies and is the administrative assistant at The Heartland Institute.