The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were set in place to bridge the achievement gap across the United States, focusing specifically on students with disability. It is important to understand the true impact of these provisions on the academic achievement of these students because they are considered at-risk of dropping out of school or having low academic performance. There were significant gaps in the literature regarding educational policies and reform issues.
Since the country was committed to providing equal educational opportunities to its students, there was a constant need to evaluate the quality of educational instruction and curriculum that were specifically designed for students with disability. A few studies focused on quantifiable effects of the educational policies and reforms and how these variables impacted the achievement of this population. This quantitative study will be conducted to offer evidence as to the relevant benefits of NCLB and IDEA for high school students with disabilities.
There is a need to build an understanding of the influence of NCLB to close the achievement gap that perils the country. A deeper understanding is achieved through the close examination of the current data trend, as well as an evaluation of the unprecedented consequences of the legislation across different student populations, especially those that were considered to be in the at-risk group. The first research question of this study inquires about the instructional changes that had occurred for the students with disabilities due to the implementation of NCLB.
The second question of the study is how the achievement of children with disabilities was improved by the IDEA implementation. The third question of the study evaluates the achievement gap between students with disabilities and without disability, and how it was narrowed by the policies set forth by the NCLB. The findings of this study could provide a significant evaluation of the interrelated effects of NCLB and IDEA to increase the academic achievement of the disabled students and to close the achievement gap between students with disabilities and without disability.
There is a need to monitor the impact of the strategies implemented by NCLB and IDEA in order to change what was ineffective and to strengthen strategies that were producing improvement in the performance of the students with disability. There is a constant need to recognize more efficient instructional practice and educational leadership that would focus on the improvement of the rate of achievement of students with disabilities in order to increase the quality of education in the country. Background of the Study
States across the United States were compelled by the No Child Left Behind Act to design a system of school accountability founded on annual student assessments. The impact of this federal legislation on how student achievement is distributed is a controversial and critical subject of analysis and investigation for educational leaders. The major problem with any educational reform is the possibility of schools implementing superficial changes in content, objectives, and structures instead of changes in culture, role behavior, and conception of teaching.
In this regard, it is within the scope of educational leadership to assess the impact of the implementation of such reforms on student achievement, especially in light of the reassessment by educators of their practices to find ways of bridging achievement gaps between groups of students. Even though achievement gaps appear to be unyielding, a mushrooming research foundation is offering concrete evidence that employing more effective teachers could only seal these achievement gaps (Bandeira de Mello, Blankenship & McLoughlin, 2009; Carnoy & Loeb 2002).
As suggested by a number of studies, disadvantaged students who constantly interact and are instructed by effective teachers manage to match up with their advantaged peers (Bandeira de Mello, Blankenship & McLoughlin, 2009; Carnoy & Loeb 2002). NCLB, through provisions for teacher quality, attempts to staff every classroom with special education teachers in order to address these disparities. As schools and states endeavor to improve their academic results, students with disabilities become the center of focus.
In this regard, a critical assessment of NCLB and IDEA in terms of their effectiveness in the handling of high school students with disabilities and how this in turn affects achievement is of utmost importance to the field of educational leadership. Legislation for Students with Disability The government is required to direct legislation to address the educational needs of each student, including the individuals with disability. Rooted in this responsibility, the government offers NCLB and IDEA provisions to provide renewed educational policies designed for students with disability.
For one, IDEA was a law that made sure the rights and the benefits were adequately provided for the students. Under this act, the states were given guidelines as to the manner by which special education and other related services were designed and offered. In 2004, legislation focused on special education and gave specialized attention to curriculums and special educator qualifications in order to increase the effectiveness of the Act (Smith-Cochrane, 2005).
Furthermore, students with disabilities are also guarded by other social services agencies and other non-governmental organizations in order to assist them and their families to reach their potential through a sufficient education system. Nevertheless, there is still a growing concern as to how these strategies and approaches were implemented, even if they were done under the motive of helping students with disabilities overcome challenges, as they become productive citizens of the nation.
The programs that address the needs of disabled children are usually created in order to cater to individualized needs (Kemp, Segal, Cutter, Jaffe-Gill & Smith, 2007). Programs and strategies are designed to service the child’s disability and to cater to their needs as a result of their handicap. In order to do so, the government offered funds to public schools and other educational institutions to assist in the education of these students (Rehabilitation Act, 2003).
It is significant to recognize the policies and the civil rights that could protect the students from any form of discrimination that could prevent them from receiving the educational environment and services that they needed (Kemp et al. , 2007). The NCLB Act moved local districts to receive a higher rate of federal funding. In fact, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided a larger portion of the funds to grants in order to significantly increase the rate of academic achievement for disadvantaged students, students with disabilities included.
According to the United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2003), school districts have the freedom to determine how the funds would be used for the said purposes. The mandated outcome for this provision was for all the students to be proficient in the designated core subject areas. These changes show that there is a need to evaluate if the current educational policies and changes were achieving the solitary mandate of the NCLB Act, given the increase in the funds provided for.
The mandate required the schools to perform at the level that was dictated in order to experience sustained funding and the support from the government. Liston, Whitcomb and Borko (2007) noted that the initial scholarly response to the implementation of NCLB was composed of mixed criticisms and defenses for the benefits and problems that were brought about by this legislation. During the time that the act was newly enacted, the public waited for NCLB to pass the five-year mark that it set for itself to analyze the effectiveness of the Act.
In 2007, Liston et al. recognized the evidence and described NCLB to have uneven effectiveness. Evaluating IDEA As President Gerald Ford signed the legislation that changed the course of education in the history of the nation, IDEA was intended to ensure educational equity for children with disability (Liston et al. , 2005). He had done this at a time wherein students with disabilities were rejected from regular school and completely excluded from the mainstream classrooms.
NCLB was created to prevent major exclusion and to eradicate the stigma against students with disabilities through the objective of providing children with equal rights to education. More than quarter of a decade since, there had been a significant increase in the awareness of the public for special education. IDEA offered services like special education administered by trained teachers and intervention outside the public-school setting. The final regulation that was provided from the modification of academic achievement standards was described:
An expectation of performance that is challenging for eligible students, but is less difficult than a grade-level academic achievement standard. Modified academic achievement standards must be aligned with a State’s academic content standards for the grade in which an eligible student is enrolled. (Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 2007) IDEA established the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team that is tasked to determine how students would participate in alternate assessments in order to be classified under this particular standard.
These assessments were designed for students with cognitive disabilities and were intended to improve the students’ proficiency and advance scores based on the alternate measures for adequate yearly progress (AYP). An estimate of one percent of all the students that needed alternate assessment tests were due to the disability challenges (Special Education ; Rehabilitative Services, 2007). Due to IDEA modifications, students were given an option to have special accommodations and alternate assessments.
In the past, the standard grade-level assessments were too difficult to obtain because of strict standards and requirements (Special Education ;Rehabilitative Services, 2007). Understanding the No Child Left Behind Act The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act used to come in the form of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2001 (No Child Left Behind Act, 2006). This act paved the way for an increase of accountability for the states, the school districts, and schools in the administration of the federal education funding (No Child Left Behind Act, 2006).
It offers the parents and the students with disabilities various options in order for them to improve on their academic performance and attain academic achievement. The goal of the NCLB Act is to narrow the gap between the achievement of American students, regardless of the presence of disability and ethnic or economic minority status (No Child Left Behind Act, 2006). State legislatures and local schools are coming together to close this gap through the improvement of educational policies and strategies.
McClure (2005) described the goal of NCLB and how it was about making sure that students develop proficiency for focus subjects such as Reading and Math by the year 2013. Schools that would not be able to achieve these targets for two consecutive years were classified as “schools in need of improvement” (SINI) and were mandated to impose changes for the students to receive a more appropriate education experience. There were fervent but exceptionally diverse views that emerged from the establishment of NCLB.
In a study conducted by Harriman (2005), the view of knowledge of students regarding this act was described and revealed that most of the students knew that it was only about testing and school ranking based on test scores. Students expressed the pressure grows when tests were given. Thus, most students agreed that NCLB should undergo amending or repealing because of the experience of excessive assessment procedures (Harriman, 2005). However, Callier (2007) reported that most U. S. governors supported the main tenets of NCLB.
In order to achieve 100 percent proficiency for each student by 2014, each state was required to create a system to monitor each student in every school. In the goal of identifying any need for requiring schools to possess qualified teachers, technical support from local education agency and after-hour tutoring, an accountability system was set in place (Callier, 2007). This was implemented through hiring a staff of educators to focus on failing schools, as well as working with testing companies that would help create tests, as well as upgrade the technology needed to code and stratify student data.
Accountability systems were authorized in order to assist students improve academic performance, including children of every race, those from low-income families, those with disabilities, and those with limited English proficiency (Hayes, 2008). NCLB mandated each state to have a defined AYP for their school districts and schools within the parameters provided by legislation; students were anticipated to promote academic achievement at an acceptable level, as measured by state tests in subjects such as Reading, Language, Arts, Math, and Science (U. S. Department of Education, 2004).
Simpson, Lacava, and Graner (2004) portrayed how NCLB obligated accountability through highly qualified teachers. It was vital to have an enhanced quality in the skill of the teachers. Reports by which NCLB accountability was founded exposed the connection between the quality of teachers and the product that were exhibited by the students (Simpson et al. , 2004). Additionally, in order to meet the thorough standards of the state, schools were required to utilize scientifically based practices their instruction and curriculum development practices (Simpson et al.
, 2004). Kinsey (2006) pointed out that while assessments identified the levels of student achievement. They established a measurement method for teacher performance and ability. This is the significant factor that ensured accountability. Kinsey (2006) noted that high-stake testing forced teachers to “teach the test” in order to do well in the state tests. Educators even came to a conclusion that they needed to teach the test in order to reach the high achievement standards, which critics viewed to be fraudulent (Kinsey, 2006).
School districts and schools failing to make adequate progress for statewide proficiency goals must provide supplemental services for their students (Layton ; Lock, 2007). This could be done through making the results of the assessments available in terms of individual, school, and statewide progress reports. This did not exclude progress reports for students with special needs. Layton and Lock (2007) noted that states experienced difficulty in establishing the appropriate level of assessing students with disabilities receiving special education services for state-mandated assessment.
According to Simpson et al. (2004) the standards that represented NCLB served as a “Herculean challenge” for the students and the educators. Wasta (2006) stressed that the NCLB’s requirements were not associated with the actuality of special education. The mandate that was given for students with disabilities was based on false assumptions about the power of special education to overcome disabilities (Wasta, 2006). NCLB necessitated all disabled students to show academic achievement. The unrealistic expectation involved turning students with disabilities into proficient students (Wasta, 2006).
However, Wasta (2006) did not agree that they were effective methods, which could address their disabilities. Harvey (2004) discovered that since NCLB was implemented, mainstream educators were adopting more special education approaches for classroom instruction. They increasingly used the individualized approach. Thus, the individualized approach improved mainstream classroom practices. Furthermore, there have been suggested solutions to the loopholes of NCLB that came from the practice of special education, especially when it came to standardized testing (Harvey, 2004).
Ferrell (2005) emphasized that even if the vision of NCLB for special education was for schools to employ highly qualified teachers, which would encourage the empowerment of children and to promote positive developments for the country’s education system, the implementation of NCLB was not able to attain its promise for children with disabilities. Most of the time, low expectations for students were easier to sustain by excluding them from the population tested for AYP (Ferrell, 2005).
It was necessary for schools to experience disaggregation when they undergo assessments by subgroups of disability, poverty, and second language learners. The inability to reach standardized requirements created antipathy among educators and parents and caused a stereotype against students with special needs. Arce, Luna, Borjian and Conrad (2005) asserted that NCLB undermined teachers and students in public schools. There was an increasing rate of educators from the grass-root level that did not agree with the changes that were implemented by the NCLB legislation.
The teachers were against a variety of problems that impacted the marginalized students, such as the students with disability. The educators described that there were layers of restrictive policies and structures that disallowed them from using critical pedagogy or liberated educational strategies. Mendoza (2006) presented a study about the negative experiences that pre-service educators, student teachers, college supervisors, interns, and the clinical liaisons underwent during the implementation of the provisions of the NCLB act.
The common component in their perception involved their concern about how proficiency to be prioritized over academic growth. Most of them set aside their curricula in order to supply ample groundwork for students for state achievement tests. Thus, this made their curriculum to be reliant on basic conceptual levels. Houston (2007) reported that a systematic solution was necessary and stressed that NCLB committed deadly sins, which produced a wrong set of assumptions that brought problems for the schools and the students. The first sin that was discussed was with the supposition that schools were broken (Houston, 2007).
However, in defense of the school system, Houston (2007) described it to be successful in fulfilling the historical mission of preparing children for an economy that was industrially and agriculturally driven. Thus, the problem was it was an efficient system, achieving the wrong goals (Houston, 2007). The second sin that Houston (2007) ascribed to NCLB was with conflating the testing with education. According to Houston (2007), before NCLB was implemented, the benchmarks were being met. Thus, the schools currently need to stop and understand why there existed lowered standards from NCLB.
The danger that was produced by this legislation was based on achieving the standards at the expense of eliminating alternative learning experiences. Another sin of NCLB was based on the danger of harming poor students and ignoring the realities of poverty. It was true that this legislation further limited the possibilities for poor students because of the requirements that were too high for poverty-stricken schools (Houston, 2007). While the system was created in order to include every child in the improvement efforts for the schools, it did not directly address the impact of poverty in the schools’ improvement.
Instead, it widened the gap because there were increased standards for teachers and students. Since NCLB was created to address the problems of the achievement gap, it was important to understand the actual impact of this act on the students, specifically for those in need of special education. The demands that the education system had to face required them to deliver learning to all students. The NCLB was created to respond to these demands. There had been significant debates regarding the actual merits of the legislation of this act, especially due to the requirement of strict accountability as measured by standardized testing.
It may be argued that the NCLB is the most far-reaching education policy initiative over the last 40 years. The reform is based on the idea that the public schools’ focus and productivity can be improved if detailed information on school specific performance is publicized and if this is associated with high stake test performance and probable meaningful sanctions. However, this presents various challenges to students with disabilities. Critics have argued that there are several unintended negative impacts of test based school accountability for children’s broad cognitive development (Nichols and Berliner, 2007).
They charge that NCLB and other accountability policies based on tests make educators direct resources away from critical but non-tested subjects, and to focus instruction in the limited set of topics – such as reading and math – that are represented heavily on high-stakes tests. (Rothstein et al. 2008; Koretz 2008). There is minimal assessment on how NCLB and IDEA are improving the outcomes for students with disabilities and the extent to which practices based on research are used in making policy decisions that affect students with disabilities.
During the 1990s, school accountability reforms that are similar to those that were brought about by NCLB were adopted in various states. Many research studies have assessed how these reforms affected achievement. Due to the similarities that exist between NCLB and some aspects of accountability systems that existed before NCLB, the body of research offers a useful backdrop against which can be considered as the possible impacts of NCLB on achievement.
Figlio and Ladd (2008) in reviewing this diverse literature suggest that there are three studies that are sound methodologically with regard to this research; they are Carnoy and Loeb (2002), Jacob (2005), and Hanushek and Raymond (2005). Statement of the Problem While there are numerous reports that suggest problems with educational policies and reform issues, there are research gaps in terms of the evidence for the effectiveness of NCLB and IDEA provisions in improving the academic achievement of students with disability (Bandeira de Mello, Blankenship ; McLoughlin, 2009; Carnoy ; Loeb2002).
Anderson, Medrich, and Fowler (2007) pointed out that schools that achieved the required AYP did not necessarily decrease the achievement gap. While most studies focused on AYP-based performance measures, there were limited studies that analyzed the performance gap between high school students with disabilities and those without disabilities. The nation is committed to maximizing the quality of education for students with disabilities through addressing the concern that its educational policies and reforms might not have any impact on the achievement of this population.
There are also limited studies that describe how the expectations and requirements set by NCLB and IDEA for students with disabilities have not affected their achievement owing to the irreconcilable nature of the two acts. The assessment of whether a student is being provided with free and appropriate education as dictated by the NCLB does not necessarily include the success of the student on standardized test scores. There is a gap in literature pertaining to how NCLB affected instruction practices that were designed to cater to the needs of students with disabilities.
There is also limited literature that discusses how the changes set by NCLB influenced the academic performance of students with disabilities, as well as the actual measurement of decrease in the achievement gap between students with disabilities and without disabilities. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this quantitative study is to evaluate the benefits promised by NCLB and IDEA changes for improving the academic achievement of high school students with disabilities.
The study will describe how high school students with disabilities are influenced by NCLB and IDEA through a careful scrutiny of the trend from current data. A quantitative analysis of the data will result in a clear description and assessment of the consequences of the legislation that were not foreseen for specific student groups, such as students with disability. The study will also provide a comparison in the academic achievement between students with and without disabilities in order to determine the extent by which NCLB and IDEA provisions bridged the achievement gap. Rationale
A quantitative approach is chosen in line with the purpose of the study to analyze the data from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) to determine the rate of progress in the education system from the implementation of NCLB and IDEA provisions. While AYP data is analyzed to measure the academic achievement of the school, it does not address the academic performance gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities. Even if the schools met AYP standards, this achievement does not necessarily mean the schools were closing the performance gap (Anderson et al.
, 2007). Thus, there is still a need to evaluate the NAEP of the schools on the differential achievement ratings of the said student groups. There is no significant relationship between achieving AYP standards and closing the achievement gap; thus, there needs to be a study that will analyze gaps and achievement rates separately (Anderson et al. , 2007). The study focuses on the specific changes that these students experienced as a result of the NCLB and IDEA provisions, in terms of academic performance and classroom instruction.
This research will study the correlation between NCLB implementation changes and the improvement of academic performance, classroom instruction, as well as closing of the achievement gap for students with disabilities. From the perspective of this study, closing the achievement gap will be as important as increasing academic achievement. Improving the overall performance of the students based on state assessments could hide the fact that the achievement gap between students with and without disabilities still existed.
This study will critically measure the movement in these variables based on the changes brought about by the NCLB implementation. Hypotheses The following hypotheses guide the study: H1: There has been a significant improvement in the instructional methods used to teach high school students with disabilities since the implementation of NCLB. H0: There has been no significant improvement in the instructional methods used to teach high school students with disabilities since the implementation of NCLB.
H2: There has been a significant improvement in the academic achievement of high school students with disabilities since IDEA was implemented. H0: There has been no significant improvement in the academic achievement of high school students with disabilities since IDEA was implemented. H3: There has been a significant decrease in the achievement gap between high school students with disabilities and without disabilities due to the NCLB strategies. H0: There has been no significant decrease in the achievement gap between high school students with disabilities and without disabilities due to the NCLB strategies.
Significance of the Study The purpose of this study is to offer evidence on the question of whether NCLB and IDEA generate their intended benefits for high school students. The wide interest in understanding the influence of NCLB on the distribution of student achievement also leads to a careful scrutiny of the current trend data, which further helps in the assessment of the unprecedented consequences of the legislation across various student populations. The intent of any education research is to provide the best research-based approaches that would help the students achieve their potentials in school.
In this case, educational policies and their effectiveness will be evaluated in order to monitor the academic performance and protect the rights of students with disabilities. The provision of education to students with disabilities is often viewed in the context of the disadvantaged and their achievement. Due to the limitations in the capabilities of these students, there is a need to provide specialized assistance in order for disabled students to be at par with the performance of the students without disabilities.
NCLB and IDEA provisions were enacted for the purpose of providing quality education to disadvantaged students. In short, the objective of these legislations is for no child to be left behind, regardless of the conditions that placed these students at a disadvantage. This task can be tedious and difficult because of the differential needs of the students. There is a need to supply constant, multi-faceted, advanced, and concentrated guidance and care for these students. In comparison to students without disabilities, the instructional approach for students with disabilities is bound to be more complex.
The NCLB act was created to address the problem of the academic achievement gap. While it provided for higher accountability and funding for disadvantaged schools, it posed greater challenges in the way education leaders would implement educational practices and instructional approaches. This study will examine how NCLB and IDEA impacted the instructional approaches that were designed for students with disabilities because of the individualized needs that they require. The outcome of the research will serve as an evaluation for the academic achievement of the students with disabilities.
The changes in the academic achievement will determine the effectiveness of the programs and practices that were brought about by this legislation. Finally, it is also critical to measure the rate by which NCLB implementation changes have decreased the performance gap between students with and without disabilities. Definition of Terms There are a number of terms that are important to this study. As such, the following terms will be operationally defined: Academic Achievement.
This refers to student’s proficiency in the mandatory subjects such as Mathematics, Reading or Language, Arts, and Science (NCLB, 2001). In this study, it refers to proficiency attributed to the knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement that is expected of all children based on the academic standards that are implemented for all public elementary and secondary school children. The common way of comparing academic achievement was through the comparison of raw scores, without accounting for student background (Lubienski ; Weitzel, 2008).
Academic Assessments. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, The Nation’s Report Card, is considered as an on-going assessment of academic achievement (Lubienski ; Weitzel, 2008). Data from this assessment represents the variable of academic achievement in this study. NCLB (2001) described academic assessments are conducted by the State educational agencies with local educational agencies to perform examinations that will gauge the Mathematics, Reading or Language, Arts, and Science, as a means of determining the yearly performance of the students.
Achievement Gap. The achievement gap refers to the absence of fair, equal, and significant opportunity that could be obtained through high-quality education based on the minimum standard of proficiency in the state’s academic achievement standards according to the scores garnered from academic assessments (NCLB). In the context of this study, achievement gap refers to the gap between high and low-performing children, most commonly between minority and non-minority students (NCLB, 2001).
D’Amico (2001) noted that the achievement gap existed in a range of educational success indicators, such as grades, test scores, dropout rates, college entrance/completion rates, as well as others and in every school district and student group. In this study, the gap is between students with and without disability. Adequate Yearly Progress. According to the NCLB (2001), the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) served as the state’s standards for yearly