Argument: NCLB ensures disabled students are not left behind
- Debate: No Child Left Behind Act
- Resolved: That on balance, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has improved academic achievement in the United States
Bill Byrne. "No Child Left Behind — Really? Why I like this law." - "The fact is that in many, many public schools, kids with disabilities are not learning to read and do math — while the vast majority of them can master these skills with proper instruction. I see nothing valuable in allowing a child (disabled or otherwise) to pass through the public education system for 12 years without learning to read and do math. [...] Why aren’t children with disabilities learning basic skills? From my vantage point as an advocate for children with disabilities, I have seen time and time again that school systems simply ignore the fact that children in segregated special-education classrooms are not learning to read or do math. Minuscule progress is cited to 'pat everyone on the back,' and then baby-sitting continues until the child becomes so bored and frustrated that he or she no longer wants to attend school. Then, when the child is made to attend, under pain of truancy, the child becomes a 'behavior problem.' [...] No Child Left Behind will short-circuit all of the excuses and explanations. School systems that do a good job with children with disabilities will show their progress, and those that fail to do a good job will have their ineffectiveness exposed. Then parents and voters can make informed decisions about how to get the underachievers on track."
On October 11, 2005, the Washington Post ran an article suggesting that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) has helped to institutionalize a process of protections for students with disabilities, whether or not their parents or guardians were in a position to advocate for them through IDEA.
Ricki Sabia, Associate Director for the National Down Syndrome Society Public Policy Center, shared her perspective on the law:
"At national conferences I have seen that some teachers and administrators are beginning to see that segregating students with disabilities in classes without access to the general curriculum or highly qualified--content trained--teachers is partly to blame for the achievement gap," she said. Unfortunately other teachers and administrators are spending more time fighting NCLB than they are spending on narrowing this gap."
"The biggest impact of NCLB may be a revolution in the way we talk about education for students with disabilities," she said. "The standard has always been an appropriate education which provides some minimal benefit or progress on IEP goals. We only heard 'world class' or 'state of the art' applied to general education. With NCLB, school systems will have to start applying those terms to students with disabilities if they are not to be left behind."
With regard to the testing requirements of NCLB, Diane Smith of the National Association of Protection & Advocacy Systems attempts to dissect "myths" about the federal law. She drafted a fact sheet that suggests that "most children with disabilities are able to keep up with their peers academically and take standardized tests successfully, some with and without accommodations." She points out that there are exceptions that exclude students with disabilities from the accountability system, and tests for students with disabilities come in many formats with many types of accommodations.
In response to criticisms about the stress of forcing standardized tests on students with special needs, Smith replied that "the assessments aren't nearly as stressful for the students as it will be to graduate without the skills they need to go on to employment or post-secondary education. Students with disabilities face a lot of well-meaning paternalism, but they are being protected from the wrong things."