In January of 2002, President Bush and Senator Teddy Kennedy created the "No Child Left Behind Act." This act was written by the House Committee on Education in an unusual bipartisan arrangement.
The lofty goal of NCLB (Now called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA) is to have 100% of all students achieve at grade level by the year 2014. Although all schools are subject to NCLB, only schools receiving Title I federal funds are subject to punishment.
All states are to set proficiency levels on reading and math tests in order to determine students' grade level performance. Every year, these levels will increase so that all students -including special education and students who are learning the English language (LEP)- perform at grade level. All states must begin testing students in science in the school year 2007-08.
Each year, every school must demonstrate that they are meeting state goals for grade-level work. This is called "Annual Yearly Progress" (AYP). Schools must meet AYP for all groups of students. If the number of students in a specific group is at least 40 students AND are at least 5% of the testing population OR the number of subgroup members is 200 or more, they must meet AYP as a group. If a Title I schools falls short of AYP for two years in a row, they must give parents the option to transfer their children elsewhere in the district. After three years, the school must pay for supplemental educational services. After four years, they are at risk of restructuring, state takeover, or management by private firms.
Teachers must also be "highly qualified." This means they must have at least a bachelor's degree, be fully licensed, and demonstrate competence in the subjects they teach. They must also participate in ongoing professional development. Title 1 schools must also notify parents if they are being taught by a teacher who is not "highly qualified." Now paraprofessionals have to have at least two years of college or an associates' degree or demonstration the ability to assist with reading, writing, and mathematics.
Due to pressure from educators, the US Department of Education is allowing some flexibility with special education students who have severe cognitive disabilities. Thy are now allowing districts to give an alternative assessment to "slightly" more than 1% of the students. If they are giving over 1% of their students an alternative assessment, they must apply for a waiver from their state department of education.
Unfortunately, many school districts are firing teachers and administrators if their school doesn't meet AYP. In some cases, financial incentives are given to school employees who are in schools that excel with standardized tests.
What This Means For Art Teachers
As an art teacher, you must be "highly qualified" and demonstrate competency in the arts. One advantage to this is that states must hire art teachers who are certified. The disadvantage is that many districts are cutting the arts in order to put all their money on students who are struggling with standardized tests.
The challenge is for art teachers to demonstrate that the arts are still an important part of the educational process. Art teachers are also able to integrate standards into their curriculum. For example, writing standards can be incorporated by giving students an assignment to write a short story and illustrate it.
For art teachers who are threatened with the reduction or removal of their art program, this will involve advocating for the arts. The Incredible Art Department (IAD) has several arts advocacy links to assist you in fighting the urge for districts to follow this path.
After hearing about art programs that were endangered while traveling the country, form Education Superintendent Rod Paige said in a policy letter, "As I travel the country, I often hear that arts education programs are endangered because of No Child Left Behind. This message was echoed in a recent series of teacher roundtables sponsored by the Department of Education. It is both disturbing and just plain wrong."
"It's disturbing not just because arts programs are being diminished or eliminated, but because NCLB is being interpreted so narrowly as to be considered the reason for these actions. The truth is that NCLB included the arts as a core academic subject because of their importance to a child's education. No Child Left Behind expects teachers of the arts to be highly qualified, just as it does teachers of English, math, science, and history."
Although this has helped, there isn't any teeth behind his comments. Some districts are reducing the amount of time spent on the arts in favor of remediation. This is a natural consequence of high stakes testing.
There has been some recent research done on high stakes testing. The Education Policy Studies Laboratory found that high-stakes testing has no impact on student achievement [Archive]. Although the government demands more of schools, they are paying them less. The education community was not consulted with this legislation and is reporting on many negative consequences of NCLB.
The gap between students of poverty has increased since the implementation of NCLB, according to Stephen Krashen, PhD of the University of Southern California.
Here are some of many links that speak of the horrors of NCLB: