Urban School Districts: Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 which was enacted 2002 enabled for equalization of educational opportunities to all students. Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, it called  for the accountability of future generation of students’.  Even though the NCLB called for the equalization of educational opportunities for students, it failed to provide the necessary remedies for teachers’ not to be the focus of ridicule of blame for lack of accomplishments on the high stakes testing benchmarks.

School districts even focused their attention on employment of  “highly qualified” teachers however a true definition of this is adherence of the fulfillment of state required testing for certification.  A domino effect is truly in effect for not only students equalization, but teacher equalization in the urban school districts. 

Since these mandates under NCLB, many policymakers, activists, advocates, parents, administrators, and researchers have identified concerns with further disparities/based on uncontrollable as well as controllable variables that combat progression of the goal to educate all students, especially in urban school districts.  This manuscript shows inequalities still plague urban students’ ability to achieve on high-stakes tests as a result of these variables.  The study significantly will depict resolutions are needed to bridge the gaps in these problematic components that would nullify the success of the stipulations of NCLB legislature. (Stiggins, & Chappuis, 2005).  

Hostility toward the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has grown substantially since its passage in 2001 (Price, 2010), however, resolutions for urban students are still needed to provide a more rounded educational experience.   Practitioners have been some of the first to voice their opposition to the legislation with researchers and policy makers soon to follow (Price, 2010).

Even though the stated intentions of the NCLB legislation are clear and noteworthy, leaders from both sides of the aisle designed this legislation with the goal of decreasing the achievement gaps by race, class, first language, and learning abilities to “make sure all students, including those who are disadvantaged, achieve academic proficiency” (Price, 2010).  Previous research of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 legislature which was passed in 2002 continues to fail to provide the necessary means for every child to have the capabilities to excel and achieve their educational potential.  Despite the reports of some failures, this quantitative study will show some progress has been made under NCLB for primary-level students to achieve academic success (Price, 2010).  Especially on math assessment scores, we see improvement on average, and for all primary-aged school-children (Price, 2010).  We have, even, seen early reading gaps between African American and White students slowly converge (Price, 2010). 

Review of Related Literature

Limitations exist in studies that specifically investigate the distribution of qualified personnel such as certified teachers to be maintained in the urban school districts to keep up with the demand as a result of growth across student demographics in these sparse communities (Tuerk, 2005). Deficiencies occur in this study, because psychologists with their unique training are not taking an active role in assessing states’ reactions to the NCLB mandates (Tuerk, 2005).  The use of the underexamined assessments in high-stakes situations creates potential for institutionalized racial, ethnic, and gender biases (Tuerk, 2005).  Currently with the ever-increasing amount of data available from NCLB, opportunities abound for psychologists to develop a rigorously studied knowledge base related to high-stakes testing and the effects of NCLB mandates (Tuerk, 2005).

A number of studies investigating teacher characteristics provide inferential evidence that teachers within certain subject-areas of certification maybe unevenly distributed across students (Tuerk, 2005).  Therefore, the high-qualified teachers based on this study provides for a cumulative overview which allows the students’ in at-risk urban communities to  have the ability to score higher on mandated standardized tests (Tuerk, 2005).  The assertion that teachers effect students achievement are cumulative in regards to the mandated standardized tests and that there is little evidence that subsequently disproves how effective teachers can offset the effects of less competent ones drives home the previous statements(Tuerk, 2005).  Consequently, even if states could fill all core academic teaching positions next year with highly qualified teachers, it could still take up to a decade to ensure equity for the students to academically achieve on the high-stakes tests (Tuerk, 2005).

Does the The White House Fact Sheet reflecting improvement on score(s) accurately depict the overall test strategies that school districts have to implement to overcome the test cycle?  Or, does No Child Left Behind Act legislature limit the knowledge students retain to that of centralized subject-matter?  Therefore, is school districts teaching to the tests at the detriment of progressive curriculum to widen our students’ knowledge for the future generation of our nation. 

Jones (2009) depicts that at the heart of recommendations for the No Child Left Behind dilemma/ issue is the belief that our nation can no longer afford piecemeal school reform, where effective programs benefit some children while the majority of children, particularly in inner-city and rural schools, continue to fall through the gaps (Jones, 2009).  The availability of a good education should not depend on where children live or whether they are smart enough to be selected for special programs or lucky enough to be selected through a lottery process (Jones, 2009).

NCLB’s primary false premise—that test-based accountability is the key to school reform—and illustrates through anecdote and research why NCLB must address more comprehensively issues related to parental involvement, teacher effectiveness, student performance, and community engagement in order to drive true reform for urban schools (Jones, 2009).  Therefore, even with the design of the NCLB Act possible biases, research is slowly but steadily progressing toward test-based accountability standards which emphasize the mission for all students to have the core quality of education regardless of their locality (urban cities) (Price, 2010).  

Additionally, the study identifies that other control variables may be useful for this study, which were not addressed, such as family structure, parental educational attainment, and employment rates of the families per school, but this information is not publicly available (Price, 2010).  Despite comprehensive testing requirements and accountability measures, the NCLB legislation is failing to achieve its goal of “ensur[ing] that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education (Jones, 2009).  Therefore, these factors represent deficiencies/ limitations based on the given evidence in this particular study that context errors exist (Price, 2010). Consequently, the NCLB Act’s primary focus on test-based accountability and punitive corrective measures fail to adequately address needs relating to parental involvement, teacher effectiveness, student performance, and community participation in schools (Jones, 2009).  Therefore, these needs must be addressed if NCLB is to have any chance of meaningfully impacting the lives of urban school children (Jones, 2009).

Further limitations of  No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, enacted 2002 can be seen in research studies conducted by Misco (2008) which depicts the effects of the teachers’ role in the implementation, development, and instruction of curriculum to the effective transfer of content knowledge to students in the mastery of high stakes testing standards.  Ultimately, leading to the further implementation of the new high-stakes assessment standards under State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™) which will be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year in the state of Texas among other states implementation of similar assessments.

Further research studies identify that the effectiveness in the classroom could be contributed to teachers lack of liberty to use constructivism teaching methods in the classroom to ensure that knowledge is gained by students, this narrative research design article provides certain remedial strategies that could induce a quality of education in our nation’s classrooms (Reich & Bally, 2010).  Even though it is difficult to say with precision what the effect of testing has had on American education, much of the research into the phenomenon points to the erosion of the moral authority of schools as administrators and to the fact that teachers are pressured to “do what it takes” to raise test scores (Reich & Bally, 2010).  This reinforces the substantial research which shows that in many cases this pressure leads teachers to “teach to the test” by incorporating explicit instruction of test-taking skills into their teaching (Reich & Bally, 2010).

Since Reich and Bally (2010) narrative identifies that high-stakes assessments are presented as a highly integrated road map for teaching and learning.  This may lead to two unfortunate and unintended consequences.  The first consequence is that teachers are, in effect, robbed of the opportunity to closely examine what the states want students to know and be able to do.  The second consequence flows from the first:  without doing the work required to really understand standards and assessments, teachers are less able to make informed curricular adjustments that address the needs of their particular students (Reich & Bally, 2005).

High-stakes achievement testing is a centerpiece of educator reform (Waber, Gerber,  Turcios, Wagner, & Forbes, 2006).  In this study, authors’ evaluated 91 fifth-grade children from low-income urban schools using clinical neuropsychological tests and behavioral questionnaires and obtained fourth-grade scores on state mandated standards-based testing (Waber et. al., 2006).  In support of the standards that are identified under The No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 test standards which became a federally mandated benchmark for evaluating children and schools (Orfield & Kornhaber, 2001).  With testing as a centerpiece of education reform, its value, as well as its potential for unintended adverse consequences, has become the subject of heated debate, often ignition of  conflict amongst philosophers about how children learn and the goals of education (Waber et. al, 2006).  One face about which most observers can agree is that children from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds perform more poorly on these tests than do their more advantaged peers (Waber et. al., 2006).  The outcomes to this research study identified that children from socially disadvantaged urban communities are at much higher risk of failing the tests, with major economic and social consequences for their prospects as adolescents and adults (Waber et. al., 2006). 

A number of reasons have been posited for this disparity (Waber et. al, 2006).  These include inequalities in the availability of resources (e.g., books and materials, class sizes), family and environmental factors, teacher preparation and training, and low expectations by faculty of poor and minority children (Waber et. al., 2006).  This study depicted children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds may show higher levels of cognitive dysregulation, and this dysregulation may play a contributory role in their school success, even though they are motivated to succeed (Waber et. al, 2006).  The findings further suggest that executive functions may be particularly relevant to understanding the neurobehavioral mechanisms by which poverty can affect school performance, especially as indexed by scores on more rigorous federally mandated standards-based testing (Waber et. al, 2006).

Therefore, feedback delivered once a year from standardized district, state, national, or international assessments are far too infrequent and broadly focused to be helpful (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).  The evidence must come to students moment to moment through on-going classroom teacher at the heart of the relation between assessment and school effectiveness (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).

In Stiggins and Chappuis (2005) findings, they determined that a students’ ability to learn can be derailed based on negative feedback on such assessments. The number of participants was not clearly depicted.  The conclusion; therefore, was drawn  based on the documented data that the audience/participants’ are unknown as far as numerical counts.  The authors` (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005) experiences and research identified that students’ should have a stake or ownership in their learning which will lead to them having a more quality of education.  It could; also, be concluded that a students’ state of mind whether positive or negative can be attributed to classroom assessments and high-stakes test rankings overall.  Therefore, Stiggins and Chappuis (2005) supported their proposition that students’ decisions about their academic capabilities are formulated on the basis of classroom assessment scores.  Ultimately, Stiggins and Chappuis (2005) use of student-involved classroom assessments can turn students’ achievements and thinking in regards to learning in a more positive direction.  Through the measures under NCLB, we have attempted to motivate by holding schools accountable for scores on standardized tests and by intensifying the stakes associated with low test scores (Stiggins and Chappuis, 2005).

Current legislation that propels the notion of “scientifically based research” to the forefront of debate on what constitutes a high-quality education fails to contextualize the teaching and learning process in urban settings and promises to do more harm than good (Shealey, 2006). The implications under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 were designated to ensure “all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education (Shealey, 2006).  In addition to NCLB mandates, the promise for increased accountability, shared responsibility, and “scientifically based research” guiding instruction, this legislation seeks to provide standards linked to assessment, accountability, and school improvement in an effort to produce positive student outcomes (Shealey, 2006). 

Unless the myriad of issues related to teaching and learning in urban schools are addressed from a student centered and sociocultural perspective, positive student outcomes will address only surface issues, such as test scores and school grading, which are merely symptoms of the problem of underachievement rather than causes (Shealey, 2006).  This qualitative research article explores the implications of NCLB on urban schools, teacher preparation, and future research opportunities (Shealey, 2006). 

Shealey (2006) allocates that urban students who are often relegated to schools with limited resources, access to equitable learning experiences directed by experienced and effective teachers is not only an expectation but a right.  Therefore, until reform enthusiasts deal with the inequity in public school funding and with the teacher shortage crises, the circular dialogue on teacher quality and research-based instruction will continue and fail to bring about any meaningful changes in urban schools (Shealey, 2006).

Researchers have been aware of significant disparities in scholastic achievement between children from low- and high-income homes (Tuerk, 2005).  Dubbed the achievement gap, these disparities typically fall along racial as well as socioeconomic boundaries (Tuerk, 2005).

In Stiggins and Chappuis (2005) findings, they determined that a students’ ability to learn can be derailed based on negative feedback on such assessments. The number of participants was not clearly depicted.  The result of the study clearly does not have a distinct representative participatory audience that contributed to the findings.  The authors` (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005) experiences and research identified that students’ should have ownership in their learning which will lead to them having a more invested interest in their own learning experience which catapults into a more quality of education journey.  It could be concluded that a students’ state of mind whether positive or negative can be attributed to classroom assessments and high stakes testing rankings overall.  Therefore, Stiggins and Chappuis (2005) supported their proposition that students’ decisions about their academic capabilities are formulated on the basis of classroom assessment scores. 

In the quantitative research study, Rushton and Juola-Rushton (2008) further defines aspects of the NCLB Act.  NCLB is included, based on Rushton and Juola-Rushton (2008), in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 which was reauthorized by President George W. Bush in 2001.  The goal of NCLB is to have all students reading and writing at proficient levels by 2014 (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  NCLB provides funding for schools that make the grade but the schools with the lowest socio-economic status are at a disadvantage right from the starting blocks (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  Research has shown that the teachers employed at low-performing schools often are less qualified teachers while the students may have less extensive academic preparation (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008). High-stakes testing requires educators to reach beyond their traditional forms of teaching and allow students to be active participants in their learning (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  We are more dependent now than ever on the findings from the world of neuroscience to develop meaningful, applicable and transferable knowledge (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  Education is being reduced to test bubbles on a page that determine a student’s future (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  It is our responsibility to not only greet the child’s intellectual learning receptors each day but also to reach simultaneously, the emotional, social, cultural, and physical environments provided for each child to ensure a greater depth of thinking and understanding (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  It is our responsibility, conscientious educators, to prepare our students to engage for a future that we cannot fully perceive, comprehend, or imagine (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  Researchers, policymakers, administrators, parents, and students continue to transfer the accountability under NCLB Act to teachers to ensure that the adequate knowledge is transferred to the student population to meet the academic as well as the mandated high-stakes testing criteria (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008).  It is not a matter of accountability on one but many to find logical resolutions to the gaps that threaten to weaken the essence of what NCLB Act of 2001 entails such as, equality for all students regardless of the socio-economic (urban) status challenges.  Can the measure of a standardized test realistically qualify logical evidence of the progress of students knowledge in their educational growth (Rushton & Juola-Rushton, 2008)?

Finally, in the quantitative study Hoerandner and Lemke (2006), the authors identifies relevant controllable and uncontrollable factors which continue to plague the results that prevent students in urban communities from adequate pass rates under NCLB standardized test criteria.  Since No Child Left Behind, federal legislation, aims at elimination of the perceived achievement gaps across sociodemographic groups of students in the United States (Hoerandner & Lemke, 2006).    Researchers and policy makers continue to struggle to eliminate these gaps based on NCLB Act of 2001 which was enacted under President George W. Bush signed in January 2002 (Hoerandner & Lemke, 2006).  Is the nation moving toward the stipulation under NCLB to have “all students meet or exceed the state’s proficient level of academic achievement” by year 2014(Hoerandner & Lemke, 2006)?

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this quantitative study is to identify the effects No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 criteria for “educating all children” has succeeded in the progress to contribute to the combative and oppositional factors for students in urban communities’ battle with for a quality of education.  In the study, it identifies factors which researchers used, individually and collaboratively, to further studies to eliminate these gaps in the educational downfalls that are prevalent for students in urban populations.  Especially, this study should provide a foundation that can be used to signify uncontrollable variables as well as controllable variables that make the stipulations under No Child Left Behind Act problematic in regards to the accomplishment of “educating all children”.  The references in this article should validate that inequalities are prevalent for urban students based on their socioeconomic status.  Even though NCLB was mandated to hold states accountable for “all students” having the same educational benefits, variables prevent urban students from significantly achieving pass rate scores on the high-stakes test.

Significance of Study

The significance of this quantitative research study is to present the outcome of the enactment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 for students in urban communities.  Since there are various opinions and evidence to the academic significance on the low rates on high-stakes tests for urban students, the research design will provide a detailed focus of all facets from socio-economic status to lack of qualified teachers that contribute to these deficiencies.  Also, the study will show the need for further research to bridge gaps that exist in uncontrollable and controllable variables that plague urban students’ achievement in their school districts that will eventually undermine the success of NCLB Act, enacted 2002.


The research survey supported on a minimalist perspective that the reason behind the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, enacted 2002 has not sufficiently made an overall impact on the success of urban students.  Based on the highest rating of 3.92, the survey reflected that difficulties arise from the NCLB Act due to its implementation essence undermining the /problems that it was suppose to be enacted to solve.  Constructivism is the basis of the educational learning environment; however, the survey identifies that the responders are not aware of the current method of procedure that is being used in  our current school system.  It is constructivism that we use to derive a positive learning environment philosophy that is appropriate for young children success in the educational arena.


Based on the data and findings, the recommendation would be for further scientific research to be done in urban schools in reference to varied components, e.g. technology and simulations effect on enhancing test scores on the high-stakes assessments.  It would, also, prove beneficial to identify a study of the urban classroom structural foundations and internal as well as external variables that contribute to the downfall of the student success in this socioeconomic setting.  This would ensure that researchers would compile the necessary information to better the process to ensure the success by the 2014 deadline under No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.


Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill-Prentice Hall, 51,54.

Grant, S. G., & Salinas, C. (2008).   Assessment and accountability in the social studies.  In Handbook of research in social studies education, ed. L. S. Levstik and C.A. Tyson, 219-238.  New York:  Routledge.

Hoerandner, Claus M., & Lemke, Robert J. ( January, 2006).  Can no child left behind close the gaps in pass rates on standardized tests?  Contemporary Economic Policy , 24 (1), 1-17.  

Jones, Crystal L. (2009). No child left behind fails the reality test for inner-city schools:  A view from the trenches.  Cumberland Law Review, 40 (2), 397-426.  

Kingsley, Karla V., & Boone, Randall. (Winter, 2008).  Effects of multimedia software on achievement of middle school students in an American history class. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(2), 203-221.

Misco, Thomas. (Sep/Oct 2008). Was that a result of my teaching? A brief exploration of value-added assessment. Clearing House 82 (1), 11-14.

Orfield, G., & Kornhaber, M. L. (2001).  Raising standards or raising barriers.  New York:  Century Foundation.

Price, Heather E. (September, 2010).  Does no child left behind really capture School Quality?  Evidence from an urban school district.  Educational Policy, 24 (5), 779-806.

Reich, Gabriel A., & Bally, David. (Jun, 2010).  Get smart:  Facing high-stakes testing together.  Social Studies, 101 (4), 179-184.

Rushton, Stephen, & Juola-Rushton, Anne.  ( Aug, 2008).  Classroom learning environment, brain research and the no child left behind initiative:  6 years later.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36 (1), 87-92.

Shealey, Monika Williams. (January, 2006).  The promises and perils of “scientifically based” research for urban schools.  Urban Education, 41 (1), 5-19.

Stiggins, Rick, & Chappuis, Jan. (Winter, 2005). Using student-involved classroom assessment to close achievement gaps. Theory into Practice, 44 (1), 11-18.

Tuerk, Peter W. (Jun, 2005). Research in the high-stakes era.  Psychological Science, 16 (6), 419-425.

Waber, Deborah P. ,  Gerber, Emily B., Turcios, Viana Y., Wagner, Erin R., & Forbes, Peter W. (2006).  Executive functions and performance on high-stakes testing in children from urban schools.  Developmental Neuropsychology, 29 (3), 459-477.


Posted by: Rhonda R Canady, MS, Training and Development, MS, Training and Development, United States (04-Aug-2012)
Follow Us
F Twt Li YT