NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"No Child Left Behind" Law Challenges Poor Rural Schools

December 2, 2002

The new federal law known as "No Child Left Behind" embraces the laudable goal of enabling public schools to bring every child up to his or her educational potential. But it is composed of a dizzying set of new requirements: annual testing of students in reading and math from grades three through eight, transfer options for children in schools that fail for two years running, and private tutoring after three years -- paid for with federal money earmarked for poor schools.

But some of these requirements are particularly onerous for poor and rural school districts.

  • According to an April report from the General Accounting Office, 35 states failed to meet the testing and assessment requirements of the 1994 Comprehensive Education Reform Act -- and the new law has even tougher requirements.
  • One such state is Alabama, where teachers at poor and remote schools must often teach from textbooks first published in 1961.
  • In order to earn the equivalent of an academic diploma which will allow them to attend a university, Alabama students must master a foreign language -- although there are no foreign-language teachers at some schools.
  • Aside from lack of money, court challenges and appeals involved in interpreting the new law and applying it add confusion and delay in many states -- assuring that the dream of no child left behind won't be realized on the ideal timetable envisioned by Washington planners.

Source: Diana Jean Schemo, "Poor Rural Schools Must Struggle to Meet New Federal Rules," New York Times, December 2, 2002.


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