The No Child Left Behind Act: Purpose and Performance

Purpose of NCLB Act

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) initiated by the George Bush Administration was a response to the declining standards and outcomes of educational institutions across the United States.  The NCLB was founded on the notion that “an enterprise works best when responsibility is placed closest to the most important activity of the enterprise, when those responsible are given greatest latitude and support, and when those responsible are held accountable for producing results” (  Falling within this framework of education reform were the following action plans:

1. Focus on Accountability for Student Performance:  The School administrators are held responsible for the accomplishments of their pupils; and a ‘carrot and stick’ approach has been adopted for rewarding and sanctioning school administrators.  Parents will be constantly intimated of their child’s progress.  The annual state reading and math assessments from grade 3 to grade 8 will be used as the basic standard for school performance.

2. Emphasis on What Works:  In an effort to adhere to modern teaching methods, the Federal government has promised to fund those schools which implement teaching methods that are up to date with latest research.  It is hoped that such financial support will “improve schools and enhance teacher quality” (

3. Greater Flexibility and Lesser Bureaucracy:  Under the NCLB Act, schools across counties and states will be allowed to be flexible in the way they function.

4. Greater Role for Parents:  Parents will be encouraged to regularly monitor their child’s as well as the school’s performance and will be given the option to move their child to a better performing school.

While the above basic blueprint does not address all recurring problems in the federal education system, they do focus on some of the key areas that require reform.  A straight-forward approach of linking funding to school results is unprecedented in the history of federal education system.  Further to the above four-point action plan, the NCLB Act is intended to fulfill the following list of objectives:

  1. Improving academic outcomes of under-privileged pupils
  2. Improving the quality of teaching
  3. Making non-native students fluent in English language
  4. Encouraging parental participation and choice
  5. Making schools safe for children
  6. Increasing funding for Impact Aid
  7. Greater Emphasis on freedom and accountability

Introducing the NCLB agenda, the Education Department released a newsletter, in which it states that

“In America, no child should be left behind. Every child should be educated to his or her full potential. This proposal sets forth the Presidents proposed framework to accomplish that goal. This Administration will work with Congress to ensure that this happens quickly, and in a bipartisan manner.  President Bush emphasized his deep belief in our public schools, but an even greater concern that “too many of our neediest children are being left behind,” despite the nearly $200 billion in Federal spending since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The President called for bipartisan solutions based on accountability, choice, and flexibility in Federal education programs”. (

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