No Child Left Behind: What Parents Need to Know
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The Importance of No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind is about a commitment to all children, and of course, it's one that we absolutely must honor if we're going to continue to thrive as the great nation that we are.

—Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

As the parent of a school-aged child, you've no doubt heard about No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and would like to understand what it means—especially the benefits it offers to you and your child.

NCLB is a law that was passed by Congress, with strong support from both political parties. When President Bush signed NCLB into law in 2002, he called it "the cornerstone" of his administration. It is a somewhat complex law about federal support for education from kindergarten through 12th-grade (K-12).

But the law's purposes are simple: to ensure that all children in the United States receive a high-quality education and to close the achievement gap that exists between children who typically perform well in school and those who do not—many of whom are from minority racial and ethnic groups, have disabilities, live in poverty, or do not have English as their first language.

To achieve its broad purposes, NCLB works according to four common-sense principles:

  • holding schools accountable for results;
  • giving states and districts flexibility in how they spend federal money;
  • using scientific research to guide classroom practice; and
  • involving parents by giving them information and choices about their childs education.

In 1965, Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provided, for the first time, significant federal funding for K-12 education. The original law has been renewed several times, most recently by NCLB.

The first part (or title) of ESEA is "Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged," often called "Title I." You may be wondering why this is important to your understanding of NCLB. It is important because schools that educate the disadvantaged children of this nation receive Title I money, which is most of the federal K-12 education funds ($12.3 billion in 2004-05). They receive this money through their states and districts, and more than half of all public schools (55 percent) fall in this category, often called "Title I schools."

For states to get any Title I money, they must ensure that all of their public schools and school districts meet certain requirements set forth in NCLB. For Title I schools, NCLB requires additional measures to ensure that America’s neediest students are no longer left behind. All of these requirements are designed to put into practice the four common-sense principles above and provide benefits for your child that—taken together—will guarantee the excellent education he or she deserves and needs.

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Last Modified: 02/20/2009