No Child Left Behind and disabilities education act share same goals

No Child Left Behind and disabilities education act share same goals

Can Tang Photo with Students

PHS Teacher Can Tang, center, poses with a group of her students.

Teachers write papers for school, too!  Can Tang, the Chinese language and culture teacher in Perrysburg, has studied the impact of No Child Left Behind with special needs students. eSomethin is publishing her report as part of her masters degree requirements.

By Can Tang
Guest contributor

No Child Left Behind requires states and school districts to hold all students to the same challenging academic standards and to have all students participate in state-wide assessments. Let’s briefly discuss the underlying assumptions and rationale for NCLB’s school accountability system.

Can Tang, Chinese language, culture teacher

Can Tang

Some have argued that NCLB is in conflict with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and leaves some students behind academically. In this paper, it explains whether it is possible to maintain high common standards without infringing on the rights of students with disabilities to an individualized The No Child Left Behind Act.

Signed in 2002, the act is one of the most far­-reaching education policies in American history. It could be viewed as a milestone because it largely expanded federal influences on controlling state education systems (Dee & Jacob, 2011). The goal of the reform is to improve the quality of education for all students, as well as to transform low­-performing schools to high-­quality successful school. This goal is measured by the state assessment system and by Adequate Yearly Progress (Maleyko & As Kalaei (2008) stated, “Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the amount of progress that a state requires each of its schools to achieve per year” (p. 732).

Following the requirement of NCLB, each state must provide a suitable plan that is used to view the AYP of the schools in the area (Kalaei, 2008). It is believed that schools’ AYP measurements are sufficient to guarantee that the education the school provides is aligned with the national goal. All public schools need to measure the math and reading progress of students in grades three to eight every year, and measure at least once in grades 10 to 12.

Students will be tested in science at least once in grades three to five, again in grades six to nine, and again in grades 10 to 12 (Kalaei, 2008).

“The accountability system had to include annual testing of public school students and ratings of school performance, both overall and for key subgroups, with regard to whether they are making APY towards their state’s proficiency goals,” according to Dee and Jacob (2011, p. 420).

Based on the rationale of accountability system and the status of each school’s AYP, rewards or sanctions will be applied to the school system. For those schools that consecutively fail to achieve the goal, the sanctions include public school choice, staff replacement, school restructuring, and reconstitution (Dee & Jacob, Assumptions and Rationale Underlying NCLB

Both NCLB and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act affect the education of students with disabilities. NCLB is set to common academic standards and is measured by state assessments, while IDEA guarantees an appropriate education for students in special education by developing an individualized education program, or IEP (Colker, 2013; Bassett & Bryant, 2006). It is questionable whether or not the NCLB’s high common standards will lead to better academic achievement for all students.

“We find that the new school accountability systems brought about by NCLB generated large and broad gains in the math achievement of fourth graders and, to a somewhat lesser extent, eighth graders,” said Dee and Jacobs (2011, p. 442).

Moreover, it is evident that NCLB has successfully drawn educators’ attention to the student group that has usually performed at low levels (Borowski & Sneed, 2006; Guilfoyle, 2006).

Even though the purpose of NCLB is to improve the equality of education for all students and eliminate the achievement gap (Vannest, Mahadevan, Mason, & Temple-Harvey, 2009), Parrish and Stodden (2009) argue that there are some students with disabilities who have been academically left behind, and the negative perceptions related to the standard assessment still exist. In their study of teachers, Parrish and Stodden found, “80 percent of the respondents felt that students with disabilities should not be held accountable to the same educational standards as students without disabilities.”

In order to meet the standards, some students with disabilities can be assessed with alternate assessments that were developed by the states.

However, the content that is tested in these assessments is oversimplified and may not provide valid results to reflect students’ real progress (Kalaei, 2008). The result of the simplified alternate assessment under NCLB still allows students with disabilities to fall behind by giving a false sense of the students’ progress (Kalaei, 2008). However, if educators only focus on the standard-based education for students with disabilities, a broader range of educational outcomes that respond to their individual needs, like presence and participation, accommodation and adaptation, physical health, personal and social adjustment will be sacrificed (Ysseldyke, 1997).

Maintaining High Common Standards and Individualized Education

In some aspects, NCLB and IDEA could be viewed as having the ‘‘same goal of improving academic achievement through high-expectations and high­-quality education programs’’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). In my point of view, admittedly, these two statutes serve different purposes. However, it is still possible to use these high common standards to improve the individualized education for students with disabilities.

In special education, different students will have divergent IEP designs to help them achieve their greatest potential. Compared to the common standards in NCLB, Colker (2013) stated, “IEP seeks to help a specific student learn to overcome his or her disability to reach individually specified goals.”

Combining the requirements of NCLB and IDEA, standards based IEP could be developed for students with disabilities. Parrish and Stodden (2009) supported: Instead of writing an IEP where content standards were plugged into annual goal statements, it was now possible to understand the essence of a content standard where specific students fit within the big picture of the content standard as well as how students could progress toward the content expectation of the standard. (p. 55)

As a result, the common standards and the individualized program could be reasonably combined instead of clashing in special education. Based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses, the standards ­based and data ­driven IEP still maintain high common standards as well as high learning expectations (Parrish & Stodden, 2009).

On the other hand, depending on students’ personal educational needs, proper alternate assessments in NCLB for students with disabilities could help to connect individualized education with the high common standards to show AYP. An alternate assessment is “an assessment designed for the small number of students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular state assessment, even with appropriate modifications.’’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

According to Walkman, Browder, Meier and McColl (2007), there are five options for students with disabilities. The first two options enable students to participate in the large­-scale assessment with or without accommodations (Walkman et al., 2007). An alternate assessment based on grade level achievement, and alternate or modified achievement standards that differ from grade level achievement are other options for students with disabilities (Walkman et al., 2007).


No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act could be viewed as contrasting policies for divergent student populations. However, in some aspects, they also share the same goals and expectations for better education. As a result, high common standards and individualized education could coexist to help students with disabilities achieve their personal needs and goals.

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