College Essay Examples


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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) started in the United States in 2001 (10 States, 2012). The act reauthorizes the Secondary Education Act and the Elementary Education Act. Essentially, the federal government provides aid to support disadvantaged students by ensuring they receive the proper tools to develop their education (10 States, 2012). The act is supplementary to the standards-based education reform, which sets the academic standard of achievement for students. Those standards are used to guide all of the other components of the corporate system. The movement calls for measurable content that is clearly understood for all of the school’s students (1- States, 2012). The system measures each of the students against a firm standard. This includes professional development, assessment, and curriculum (10 States, 2012). Keeping the standards in mind, NCLB aims to help bring disadvantaged students up to the acceptable level of standards as set out by the standards-based education reform (10 States, 2012).

Describe how and why this program meets the needs of the students.
This program meets the needs of students by establishing funding for their education when the regular school system is not resulting in their success. Each student has their own needs, and this program aims to provide the resources for each student so that their needs are met and they are able to achieve the type of education level that is set out in the standards-based education reform (The University, 2005).

Before addressing the needs of students, the NCLB first requires each state to set out their standards of achievement of basic skills. States then give their assessments to all their students in each of the grades. It should be noted that the federal government does not set out the specific achievement standards. Instead, it is up to each state to develop their own standards, which are critiqued by the federal government (The University, 2005). The state standards are used to provide a basis for which funding will be given by the federal government. This process helps to ensure that the students who are not achieving the basic requirement in the state’s tests will be eligible to receive support through NCLB (The University, 2005).

Due to the fact that the program has a course of action if each school is not meeting the standards set out in the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), this program is extremely effective at identifying the schools that are struggling to meet the standards. The exact courses of action that the government takes when the standards are not being met are outlined in the next section. However, essentially, for each year that the school does not meet the relevant standards, there is a new course of action, to the point where the school could be turned over to the state officer for it to operate (The University, 2005). Because this plan ensures schools that are not operating to a level that facilitates a high level of student achievement are either fixed or shut down, the NCLB is helping to ensure that students at all schools are receiving high-quality education (The University, 2005).

The act is essentially putting some of the onus on school staff to ensure that students are achieving, rather than putting all of the pressure on the students. This is a major step forward because without some of the responsibility for student achievement being placed on the school itself, the school staff might not feel obligated to make a focused effort on improving the overall grades of students in the school.

The program appears to be successful, as exemplified in the way it identifies teachers who are not doing a good job. The NCLB sets out to provide only “highly qualified” teachers for all of the students (Crawford, 2004). The states are assigned the task of identifying who is the highest qualified teachers. This can help ensure that the teachers are kept to the high standards that are set out in the NCLB. Each of the states is responsible for deciding what constitutes a high standard for a teacher (Crawford, 2004).

Furthermore, the act meets the needs of students because it sets out a reasonable level that the students should be accomplishing. This helps to ensure that the appropriate level of achievement is realized so that the student can meet the standards needed for being successful in college (Crawford, 2004). Also, this program succeeds because it sets one standard that should be accomplished by all students, rather than having various standards to be met by different demographics of students. This is necessary because the point of having these standards is to ensure the students are given the best opportunity to be successful in college – and because colleges do not mark at a lower standard for students who are disadvantaged, all students should need to meet the same standard at the elementary and high school levels.

One of the areas where the program does not serve the students well is in the area related to record keeping. This act was established in 2001, during the George W. Bush presidency, and it provides access of student contact information to military recruiters (Crawford, 2004). This unusual addition to an act that is designed to improve the outcomes for students is contradictory in that the recruiters are allowed to contact the students. However, students are able to opt out of allowing the recruiters to have access to personal information (Crawford, 2004). This component does not serve as an addition to meeting the needs of students. However, it does provide some students with a career option, which does have some value to the intent of the program.

In determining whether the program meets the needs of the students, it is important to analyze whether the bill is using the correct standards for student achievement. Ultimately, it appears that it does. The act depends on scientifically based research that is used to create the bills and teaching methods (An Act, n.d.). According to the act, this is “research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs” (An Act, n.d.). The research that is attained through science is deemed to be applicable to the environment in which the students are learning. The methods that are not scientific, but are still used, are followed from tradition, non-scientific research and personal findings (An Act, n.d.). These areas are less valuable in designing the standards, but should be used as a guideline anyway, as it provide a more subjective look into the way the schools are functioning, rather than a purely objective take that the scientific research offers. Furthermore, it is important to combine the quantitative information that the scientific research supports, with the qualitative information that the more personal approach takes. For example, the qualitative information about the standards that should be set out are based on cases studies of specific students who had been struggling, and about the ways that they were able to overcome those struggles with the type of learning they were doing (An Act, n.d.). This helps to design the curriculum and the standards of achievement. The non-scientific information that is included also focuses a lot on personal interviews, grounded theory, discourse analysis and action research. However, these are strictly not acceptable bases to decide about how to make decisions based on the act.

Does the program follow all mandates?
NCLB has several standards, which will be set out before analyzing whether they are being met. The state-wide standardized test that each school needs to administer is one of the major components to the program. This test is supposed to be carried out annually so the federal government can decide how much money to dedicate to each school district for the education of students. This is set up so that all students are taking the same test while under the same conditions (Elementary, 2008).

Furthermore, the schools that are already receiving funding under the Title I from the Elementary  Education act and Secondary Education Act of 1965 need to make progress annually in their test scores. For example, in each of the years, the fourth graders need to do better on the previous years’ tests in order for them to continue to receive funding. This is meant to ensure that the money is actually generating results, and is not being given to schools without performance outcomes being met (Elementary, 2008).


NCLB aims to ensure that the school’s results improve in many of the years. For example, the schools that do not achieve the AYP for two consecutive years are labeled in the public as being “in need of improvement.” They are required to develop a two-year improvement plan that sets out how the students will achieve more. Also, the students have the option in this arrangement to transfer to another school if that option is available to them (Elementary, 2008). Also, missing the AYP for three years consecutively results in the school having to offer free tutoring and various other education services that aim to accommodate the students who are struggling. Schools that miss the AYP target in four years consecutively are labeled as needing “corrective action.” This could result in there being a complete replacement of the staff at that school, as well as the introduction of new curriculum, and it could also mean students need to spend additional time in class (Elementary, 2008). If the school does not meet the standards that are set out in five consecutive years, then there is planning for restructuring the entire school, and this plan is implemented if the school does not meet the AYP targets in the sixth consecutive year. Options at this point include closing the school down, hiring a private company to take over to carry out NCLB, transforming the school into a charter school, or ask the state office to take over the responsibilities of running the school directly.

The federal government also sets out how each state can create its AYP objectives. For example, the state needs to ensure that the AYP measurable objectives are developed in the first place, at the state level. Each school or school district is not able to develop their own AYP objectives (No Child, 2011). These objectives are designed for all students, including the economically disadvantaged students. Other students that have been identified as needing specific attention in their education include students who have disabilities and students who do not have a complete understanding of English (No Child, 2011). Furthermore, the objectives need to include setting the guidelines so that the students are at the proficient level or above it within 12 years. Furthermore, the AYP needs to be based on the state assessments, and they need to also include another academic indicator (No Child, 2011). The objectives need to be assessed at schools. Each year, the schools’ AYP results need to be reported separately for each of the groups of students who were identified. This is because it needs to be determined whether each of the student groups are meeting the AYP objectives. The state assessments needs to include at least 95% of the group (No Child, 2011). Finally, the states are allowed to take up to 3 years to make the AYP determinations (No Child, 2011).

Ultimately, the bill follows through on its goal of structuring school in a way that helps ensure all students are given an opportunity to succeed. Due to the strict structure of the annual evaluations of each of the schools, the teachers are held accountable for the success of the students. This likely gets them to work harder, and to nurture the students so that they are achieving a high standard. The yearly standardized tests are a top reason to determine whether the school needs to make adjustments, and it works as an effective gauge in determining whether the school needs extra attention. The more the school does not meet the standards, the more attention it is given by the government, which aims to see whether the issues can be fixed (No Child, 2011).

However, schools that are not meeting the standards that are set out can face decreased funding (No Child, 2011), which appears to be counterintuitive. While on the one hand the school feels pressure to perform well, it also faces the challenges of having to cope with less money. During a time where the school needs more money than ever in order to address the issues with students achievement, it does not have the financial resources to add extra tutoring, for example, for students who need the extra help.

The bill is successful because it provides a link between the state’s academic standards and the student outcomes. It essentially holds the standards accountable, and therefore could encourage those who are writing the policies about the bills to do a better job in their formation. Also, it measures all of the students’ performances, and it does so annually to see if the students are improving or not (No Child, 2011). NCLB also provides a foundation so that school districts and schools can significantly enhance the involvement of parents, as well as improved administration by using the assessment data and this guides the instruction, business practices, and curriculum (No Child, 2011).

Are all mandated services being rendered to the child?
It is unclear if the government is delivering on all of its objectives. However, in taking a look at various news stories about the issue, the picture becomes clearer. For example, the state of Pennsylvania has proposed to pay teachers according to the test scores that they receive. If the students in the district do poorly, according to this proposal, then they will be paid a lower wage. The state has said that by holding each teacher financially accountable for the success of the students, more success will be achieved (Crawford, 2004).

The students are given the proper options if the school that they are in is not achieving to the level that it should be. For example, students are allowed to transfer to a better performing school if they have the option, even if that school is away from the area in which they live (Crawford, 2004). This option, however, is only available if the school fails to meet the AYP for at least two years. Also, the students are eligible at this point to receive free tutoring, or to attend after-school programs (Crawford, 2004).

In determining whether the services are being met, it is important to look at the accountability systems that were in place prior to the act being initiated, and compare student performances from that time, to the student performances now. The programs prior to NCLB showed that when accountability to teachers and the school system were established, students tended to achieve better results (Crawford, 2004). Furthermore, in analyzing the state test scores from before and after the implementation of the NCLB act, it becomes clear that the program has had a positive impact. However, the act has been criticized as causing states to lower the achievement level, and this reduces the effective instruction that is expected of the schools because teachers simply “teach to test” (Crawford, 2004). The testing, however, has been credited as providing information about the students that leads to improved success. Based on the knowledge that is gathered through the testing, the state is able to design the standards to improve on the deficiencies in the realization of specific outcomes (Crawford, 2004).

Does the program offer parental support?
The program provides information for parents by making sure that the states and the various school districts are giving the parents detailed report cards on the schools, and the districts need to explain to the parents the AYP performance of the school (An Act, n.d.). The parents also need to be informed about the teacher that is teaching their child if that instructor has not been deemed a “highly qualified” instructor.

Under the Individual Education Plan (IEP), parents have the right to see whether their children are achieving under the Free Access to Public Education (FAPE). This helps parents to see whether the schools are following the standards set out by the state. Some parents have raised concerns about whether enough attention was given to the IEP. Parents in Illinois challenged School District 140, saying it the school’s NCLB testing was not being carried out (An Act, n.d.). The parents were concerned the students were not being given the additional education that NCLB says it will give to students who are not achieving the standards that the state sets out. The parents feared they were not being given the supports they were promised, and this was resulting in the continuation of a low standard of education. The case concluded that more accommodations should be given to the students in the school district who were not meeting the academic standard (An Act, n.d.).


NCLB has shown very positive results, according to the test scores and the various responses from people within the education system. The program has improved student success, which was the program’s goal from the start. One of the biggest reasons for that change in student outcome is the attitude of teachers. The NCLB does have a component where it will give money to the school districts that need to provide tutoring, but mainly the initiative ensures that teachers are meeting the standards that are set out by the act. This results in a greater emphasis on ensuring students are achieving well in school. Prior to the NCLB act, instructors were not held accountable often enough for the quality of the lessons they were giving. This frequently led to students not receiving the proper instruction for them to be able to achieve a high grade on the school’s test. Furthermore, the teachers were likely less engaged with the students, because they did not feel the pressure of ensuring their class did well on test scores. Another one of the major strong points in the program is the fact that teachers are fired if they are not doing a good job. This helps ensure the students are receiving the highest possible level of education.

However, the program could benefit from a change in the policy surrounding the withdrawal of funds when the school is not meeting the criteria. This component of NCLB is counterintuitive because the government is withdrawing funds right when the school might need it the most. If there funds were withdrawn from a specific category, such as teacher’s salaries, such as how the State of Pennsylvania is proposing, then the withdrawals might be justified. However, this policy would not be fair to the teachers who are working hard, and it could encourage them to leave their jobs, and that is exactly what the NCLB act should not initiate, because quality teachers can be difficult to find.

10 states freed from some ‘no child left behind’ requirements.” (2012). CNN.

An act.” (n.d.). U.S. Government Printing Office.

Crawford, J. (2004). No child left behind: misguided approach to school accountability for English language learners. National Association for Bilingual Education.     

Elementary and secondary education.” (2008).

No child left behind.” (2011). Education Week.

“The University of the State of New York.” (2005). Federal Legislation and education in New York State 2005.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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