The purpose of the Act was to guarantee all children the opportunity of receiving a quality education regardless of disability or minority status. Its goal was to have all children reach the level of proficient in the areas of reading and math according to state academic achievement standards and tests. The Act planned for 100 percent proficiency by 2014.
The most blatant problem here is that the Act left it up to the states to define what "proficient" means. This allows for there to be a discrepancy among states of levels of achievement, meaning some students are being challenged where others are not. This also creates a difference in scores on state and national tests. In 2003, 58 percent of Maryland's fourth-graders passed the state reading test but only 32 percent passed the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). That same year, Mississippi's fourth-graders had a gap of 89 percent and 18. This proves that schools are lowering their standards to produce an image of improvement.
Also the aim for 100 percent proficiency encompasses all students, disabled and advanced alike, which is unrealistic. All students cannot achieve to a high standard and some may just not want to. The only way schools have found to make up for this is to set the bar lower.
Another flaw is the punishment that low-performing schools receive. The NAEP has become tool to measure whether a school is progressing to meet the Act's standards. When a school is found to be failing, funds can be cut or redirected towards tutoring programs, and students are given the option to transfer to schools that pass the Act's standards. Pulling resources and students from troubled schools doesn't seem like a way to improve them.
We have dug ourselves into a hole that just keeps getting deeper. To meet the Act's requirements and avoid punishment, schools continue to lower their standards to create an appearance of progress and "proficiency." Slipping standards has reduced the quality of education students receive, which is why this law was written in the first place. Improving the level of education was a nice idea, but expecting schools to make every single child succeed was too much. Now No Child Left Behind might as well be Every Child Left Behind.