The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act is not an attempt to reform education; it is an attempt to airbrush the crisis of America’s social condition. NCLB will not help the current state of our educational system.

It has been said that, “Education is a reflection of society” (Ravitch, 2008, p.19). More than 20% of American children live in poverty. That means that daily; over 14 million children are left to care for themselves. Most of these children are malnourished, sleep deprived, physically ill, and sometimes, even homeless. For a child in this position, academic achievement is the furthest thing from their mind. If the environment is a negative, unsafe place of decay- how is it possible to mold an upstanding citizen? A child cannot do their best if they are struggling at home. NCLB does not take a child’s emotional state into consideration. In cases like this, how does a policy help a child become a decent human being?

Many people would argue that it is the parent’s responsibility to guide the child. In a perfect world, everyone would grow up in a functional, two-parent household- but here, in reality, single parent homes are the normal. Parents, especially those who work long hours, can only instill so much. It is here we can safely assume that the real culprit lies in poverty. If officials had any real interest in helping our youth, the living conditions would be a top priority; it all starts with the community.

Government officials, instead, comfortably point the finger at teachers and principals. This, in turn, has caused many cheating scandals in schools nation-wide. According to the Department of Education , every child is required to be proficient by 2014, regardless of disability or language (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).If the school fails to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), then school funding is lost, bad evaluations are given, jobs are threatened, and students are eventually displaced. Author Nancy Agustin believes that, “This type of policy disregard for human social, economic, and cultural diversities engenders cheating.” Assessment evaluations do not merely observe the learning trend, it is a tool designed to penalize the school faculty when unrealistic goals aren’t meant..

Many critics recommend stronger accountability to help low achieving students. They accuse teachers of not being professionally developed enough to teach children. In the article, Sunday Dialogue: Improving our School System, Steven Krashen makes a thought provoking argument as he states that, “The mediocre performance of American students on international tests seems to show that our schools are doing poorly. But students from middle class homes who attend well-funded schools rank among the best in the world on these tests, which means that teaching is not the problem” (Krashen, 2012). It is humanly impossible to make all children learn at the same rate. A weakened curriculum cannot be blamed on inadequate teaching when school books are out of date and government funding is minimal. Most states are complaining that the government isn’t supplying enough money to even do what is required by law.

On the other hand, educational policymakers such as Margaret Spellings and Chester E. Finn believe that this policy is a great way to monitor the progress of our public schools. She believes that mathematics and science scores will help us pinpoint exactly where the student is having difficulty. Government officials collectively agree that, “While we are still a nation risk, we are also now a nation informed, a nation accountable, and a nation that recognizes there is much work to be done.”(Department of Education, 2013.) This outlook seems convincing, but Chester E. Finn doesn’t do much to defend this claim- he says, “The truth is, despite all the fuss and feathers about NCLB, there’s little agreement on exactly what ails or what might cure it-” (Finn, 2007). What exactly is the grand scheme of these policymakers? Could it be that NCLB is just another fad they put together to seem progressive?

Twenty-five years ago, a Nation at Risk (or ANAR) was an educational policy implemented to show complacency in America’s school system. ANAR was the blueprint for NCLB- it took a similar approach by adopting guidelines like having, “Schools, k-12, adopt more rigorous and measurable standards and [to] have higher expectations for student performance and conduct (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). This policy, however, recommended all students, especially those in high school, have a foundation in the 5 new basics- 4 credits in English, 3 in Math, 3 in Science, 3 in Social Studies and 1/2 in computer science. Unlike students now, at least, students back then could explore cultural studies in depth. John Taylor Gatto makes a great point in his book Dumbing Us Down when he says that policymakers are, “Deliberately producing robots instead of adults who are the best they can be” (International Test Scores, 2011). Educational policies, such as NCLB, are widening the gap when it comes to equal opportunity; both of these policies have only been successful in ignoring civic calamity.

No real structural reform has taken place in over two decades. The Department of Education says, “We simply cannot return to the “ostrich approach” and stick our heads in the sand while grave problems threaten our education system, our civic society, and our economic prosperity. We must consider structural reforms that go well beyond current efforts, as today’s students require a better education than ever before to be successful (Department of Education, 2008). Sometimes, it’s tempting to believe the sincerity of their issued statements, but we’ve already this song. Our children are being systemically crippled at an alarming rate. On a grading scale of 501, by grade 12 the top students in America only rank 442 in Science and 423 in math. That’s the very bottom of the totem pole- countries such as France and Norway take the lead with averages that are 557 and 581 (TIMSS, 2011). There has never been more of an urgency to come up with an effective plan.

The people must In the words of W.E. Dubois, “Schools by themselves- no matter how excellent- cannot cure the ills created by extreme social and economic inequality.” could be gaped between the school and community, this would empower not only the students, but the parents as well. Programs could teach parents how to help their children learn at home. With parents more connected, morals and values would increase- minimizing poor behavior. A child is less likely to be disobedient if there is discipline for misbehavior and reward for obedience. Family programs would also give parents and teachers the opportunity to work together- in turn, giving the child a better understanding of what is expected from them.

Overall, the education reform will continue to free-fall as long as our social conditions decline. The No Child Left Behind policy is merely treating a symptom, and not the actual cause of our failing educational system. The red flag has been waving since 1983, and no one seems to be able to arrange a sensible plan to get our children back on track. It’s easy to sit behind a desk and come up with strategies that sounds good on paper. Students first need a supportive, nurturing environment to help them reach their goals. An annual exam does not change the mind of a student who is considering dropping out. School is more than just a place for academic studies; it is a place of emotional development. A headache isn’t cured by sticking a bandage on your forehead; a learning mandate isn’t going to save our children.

Ashanti Davis

Ashanti Davis


Ashanti Davis is a Writer, singer, songwriter and activist. She resides in the state of Texas where she is a student. She is the mother of one Puppy and graduate student.


Further Reading:

Agustin, N. (2011). Nclb-Ayp: High stakes testing and cheating. Retrieved from

*Author makes in-depth comparison between children who live in a nurturing environment and those who don’t; the author challenges the integrity of NCLB.

Daniels, C. (2007). Ghetto nation: A journey into the land of bling. Brooklyn, NY: Doubleday

*Writer addresses the woes of children living in poverty; she explains that most children in the inner city are responsible for themselves. In a comedic tone, the author also explores America’s new obsession with the ghetto. She explores its diversity and influence, using celebrities such as Paris Hilton to show that being ghetto is not limited to urban communities. In this book, Cora Daniels also discusses the power of hip hop. She explains that hip hop is a corporation.

Finn, C., E. (2007.) No question left behind. National review online. Retrieved from

*Policymaker and supporter of NCLB unsure of how to make program a success. Author believes NCLB is too ambiguous for Washington to pull off. He expresses his anguish over “street-level bureaucrats” He dissects all possible reasons for NCLB being ineffective; he concludes that the policy will never reach the unrealistic goal of having every child in America 100% proficient by 2015.

Krashen, S. (2012). Sunday dialogue: Improving our school system. Retrieved from

*Opinion column gives us insight into the underlying effects of poverty; it provides detail and comparison of test scores and environment. He provides statistical data from TIMSS to show that children from middle class backgrounds and well- funded schools perform extremely well.    

Ravitch, D. (2008).The death and life of the great American school system. (Rev. ed.) New York, NY: Basic Books.

*Former NCLB adovocate exposes the scandal behind the policy. The writer discusses the role society plays in shaping the child while, also, breaking down what NCLB is and its impact on our educational system. The book is used to voice the urgency of improving our schools. The author sheds light on the She, ultimately, wants to change the way the law views standardized testing.

U.S. Department of Education. (2008). A nation accountable: Twenty-five years after a nation at risk. Retrieved from

*Report analyzes the effectiveness of NCLB. NCLB and ANAR are compared.