Education Legislation

This was the final paper that I handed in for Science, Technology, and Society. This was coupled with a poster session.

Education Legislation: The Issues with No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind, the education legislation passed in 2001, mandated nationwide proficiency in all students across all grades by the year 2014. The implementation of No Child Left Behind has created issues because of its high-stakes testing, budgeting issues, and proficiency issues; these issues directly relate to concepts in the field of Science and Technology Studies.

The largest issue stemming from No Child Left Behind is high-stakes testing. No Child Left Behind requires that all students in grades three through eight take standardized tests to determine their proficiency. Schools and teachers will often go to great lengths simply to ensure that they do well in their standardized tests (Jackson). This leads to teachers teaching to the test, a strategy that schools use to make sure that their students are considered proficient when taking standardized tests. Teachers end up speeding through material in order to cover everything that is going to be on standardized tests. Teaching to the test creates a restrictive curriculum that leaves no wiggle room for students that are not neurotypical. Schools will focus on test scores rather than actually helping their students. Schools that do not do this are labelled as “low performing” even if they are helping individual students make great progress (Rich and Lewin). The main reason why schools go to such lengths is because schools that do not do well on standardized tests will get budget cuts rather than help, and may get taken over by the government.

Budgeting and proficiency issues are prevalent in special education. One of the main goals of No Child Left Behind was to get rid of the education gap. The National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado, Boulder noted that the annual tests haven’t done anything to combat the education gap (Jackson). Schools that don’t do well in standardized tests get budget cuts; they often end up using austerity measures in their budgets (Lahm). Schools usually cute special education and arts programs; these are the programs that benefit special education students the most. No Child Left Behind was legislated with the goal that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. This obviously didn’t happen (“Reforming No Child Left Behind”). States lower expectations so that they meet proficiency standards more easily and look good on annual yearly progress reports without much effort. (Jackson). The highly punitive system linked to high-stakes testing pushes schools to focus solely on raising their test scores, even if it means moving resources away from special education students.

Special education is tied to frameworks in STS in three major ways: the engineering pipeline, political artifacts, and workarounds. Special education students’ needs often go unmet and their education is therefore stunted. Students with IEPs are rarely given the skills to cope with college life and/or engineering (depending, of course, on the student and the school). This gives IEP students a disadvantage in engineering from the get-go and makes them easier to weed out from the engineering education pipeline (Downey and Lucena). No Child Left Behind itself is legislation and an artifact of United States education policy. There is much political controversy over No Child Left Behind. Right-leaning politicians think of the act as a federal power-grab over education, which left-leaning politicians criticize how No Child Left Behind hurts students and teachers. No Child Left Behind was created to be politically motivated to improve the proficiency of all students in the United States (Winner). Special education itself is a workaround to help students with educational disabilities actually have a viable education that will prepare them for the ‘real world.’ This doesn’t always work correctly, as in the Willowbrook school, but can really help students get a head start, like in Cleveland’s Ginn Academy for underprivileged boys (Rich and Lewin). Due to the inefficiencies of No Child Left Behind, states can get waivers from the government that exclude them from having to meet proficiency standards; these waivers act as workaround so that states can lower their requirements to look better for their Annual Yearly Progress. Some schools will abuse Title I funding as a workaround for increasing their budget; if they have more students with IEPs, they can try to get more funding (Pollock). This leads to schools decreasing their efforts in improving the well-being of special needs students because they want to keep the students’ IEP status to keep getting funding. There are many ways in which STS and special education can be related.

Special education as mandated in the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 has failed to close the education gap. The high-stakes standardized testing limit the ability of schools to focus on individual students’ needs and progress. No Child Left Behind’s policy on standardized testing has highly punitive measures that decrease funding for schools that do poorly rather than rewarding schools that do well. Generally, schools with a lot of special education students won’t do as well in standardized testing; punitive measures then take funding away from these schools and/or facilitate a government takeover of the school. The issues of high-stakes testing, budgeting, and proficiency tie together almost seamlessly and then as a whole relate to concepts in Science and Technology Studies. The issues pertaining to Science and Technology Studies and special education can be further investigated by looking at case studies such as comparing the Willowbrook school to the California Board of Education and studying how different districts have different policies regarding special education.