Why No Child Left Behind Is Important to America
Despite decades of hard work and dedication to education in our nation, achievement gaps remain stubbornly wide. Since 1965, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in Congress, the federal government has spent more than $267.4 billion to assist states in educating disadvantaged children. Yet, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on reading in 2002, only 31 percent of fourth-graders can read at a proficient (passing) or advanced level. Achievement among the highest-performing students remained stable, and America's lowest performers have improved only slightly. A wide achievement gap remains between poor and more economically advantaged students, as well as between white and minority students.4
The good news is that many schools in cities and towns across the country have improved academic achievement for children with a history of low performance. Teachers and administrators are working together in schools to target areas of weakness, improve skills and spend money more wisely, producing better results for all children.
While spending increased in the 1980s and 1990s, achievement remained flat. Clearly, resources and effort are not lacking as educators around the nation work to improve student achievement. The reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act, called No Child Left Behind, calls for states, districts and schools to be accountable for dollars spent on education. NCLB creates a culture of accountability, requiring schools to reassess what they are doing to raise achievement of all students and support teaching and learning.
Federal Spending on K-12 Education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Scores (Age 9)
Source: U.S. Department of Education Budget Service and NAEP
1999 Trends in Academic Progress5
Notes: Appropriations do not include funding for special education. Reading scores are the average scores for 9-year-olds, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). A score of 200 implies an ability to understand, combine ideas, and make inferences based on short, uncomplicated passages about specific or sequentially related information.