Repercussions of the No Child Left Behind Act

Contributor: Gurveer Gill

The quality of education has always been of concern in the United States. Despite being regarded as one of the most powerful countries in the world, America still struggles with somewhat subpar educational standards. To remedy this issue, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed by Congress in 2001 and was signed into law by President Bush in 2002. “The NCLB law—which grew out of concern that the American education system was no longer internationally competitive—significantly increased the federal role in holding schools responsible for the academic progress of all students. (Klein)” The act aimed to strong-arm state governments in boosting educational standards, especially when it comes to students with underprivileged neighborhoods, minorities, etc. Although the NCLB had good intentions to remedy underperforming schools, the method had overlooked flaws.

One major flaw was the implementation and effectiveness of the act. Funds and resources were unevenly distributed to school districts and favoritism towards communities of higher socioeconomic status occurred. According to Klein, even though the act called for districts to hire highly qualified teachers only, the states did not properly distribute the teachers between the wealthier and poorer communities, the motive behind this decision is to ensure the residents of wealthier neighborhoods are satisfied with their community, allowing the state to keep their more profitable taxpayers.

Other issues with the NCLB is that it was often underfunded. “School-district expenditure increased significantly in response to NCLB, and these increases were not matched by federal revenue (Dee).” It became increasing difficult for schools to meet the standards of the NCLB if the government denied funding to schools who need to hire better teachers and tutors, accommodate students transferring in, etc. The eventual conundrum that followed was that the schools, without sufficient funding, failed to meet the NCLB requirements, so they were penalized with more monetary losses and were forced to implement costly improvement plans. Essentially, some schools were set up to fail especially when Federal sanctions are introduced.

Overall, the intentions of the government were well-intended, but the execution of the resulting policy managed to make matters worse for our education system. The major mistake is that complex pieces of legislation such as NCLB needed a very clear cut, well enforced, and logical plan of action. The educational system is as fragile as it is essential: one minor misstep can affect an entire generation of children in an irreversible way. In theory, the NCLB may have lowered the quality of education in this country. It is a prime example of how even good intentions, when executed incorrectly, can have dire consequences. The No Child Left Behind Act was repealed and replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act under the Obama administration.


Klein, Alyson. "No Child Left Behind Overview: Definitions, Requirements, Criticisms, and More." Education Week. N.p., 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Dee, T., & Jacob, B.A. (2010). The impact of No Child Left Behind on students, teachers, and schools. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (pp. 149-207).

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