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Fact Sheet: No Child Left Behind Act

In January, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act - the most sweeping reform of federal education policy in a generation. The legislation, which closely follows the President's agenda to improve America's public schools, passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan majorities.

Accountability for Results: Creates strong standards in each state for what every child should know and learn in reading and math in grades 3-8. Student progress and achievement will be measured for every child, every year.

Unprecedented State & Local Flexibility & Reduced Red Tape: Provides new flexibility for all 50 states and every local school district in America in the use of federal education funds.

Focusing Resources on Proven Educational Methods: Focuses educational dollars on proven, research-based approaches that will most help children to learn.

Expanded Choices for Parents: Enhances options for parents with children in chronically failing schools - and makes these options available immediately in the 2002-03 school year for students in thousands of schools already identified as failing under current law.

Accountability for Results


— Since the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965, the federal government has spent more than $130 billion to improve public schools.

— Unfortunately, this investment in education has not reduced the achievement gap between well-off and lower-income students or between minority students and non-minority students.


The NCLB Act will strengthen Title I accountability by requiring States to implement statewide accountability systems covering all public schools and students.

— These systems must be based on challenging State standards in reading and mathematics, annual testing for all students in grades 3-8, and annual statewide progress objectives ensuring that all groups of students reach proficiency within 12 years.

— Assessment results and State progress objectives must be broken out by student groups based on poverty, race and ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency to ensure that no group is left behind.

— School districts and schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward statewide proficiency goals will over time be subject to corrective action and restructuring measures aimed at getting them back on course to meet State standards.

— If a school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, it will be identified as needing improvement and must develop improvement plans incorporating strategies from scientifically based research. School districts will be required to offer public school choice (unless prohibited by state law) to all students in the failing school no later than the first day of the school year following identification. The district must provide transportation to the new school.

— If a school fails to make AYP for a third consecutive year, the district must continue to offer public school choice and provide Title I funds (approximately $500 to $1,000 per child) for low-achieving disadvantaged students in the school to obtain supplemental services -- tutoring, after school services, or summer school programs -- from the public- or private-sector provider selected by their parents from a State-approved list. Twenty percent of Title I funds at the local school district level must be used for public school choice and supplemental services.

— If a school fails to make AYP for a fourth consecutive year, it will be subject to increasingly tough corrective actions-such as replacing school staff or significantly decreasing management authority at the school level. If a school continues to fail, the school could ultimately face restructuring, which involves a fundamental change in governance, such as a State takeover or placement under private management.

— Schools that meet or exceed AYP objectives or close achievement gaps will be eligible for State Academic Achievement Awards.

Unprecedented State & Local Flexibility


— For too long, federal education programs have come with unfunded federal mandates, one-size-fits-all approaches, and unnecessary and duplicative paperwork.

— When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized in 1994, for example, states were required to regularly test public school students in reading and math. But this federal requirement did not come with the necessary flexibility and resources for states to focus their education strategies on what works to improve student achievement.


The No Child Left Behind Act provides unprecedented new flexibility for all 50 states and every local school district in America in the use of federal education funds. It will revitalize the "flexibility for accountability" agreement with States first struck by President George H.W. Bush during his historic 1989 education summit with the Nation's Governors at Charlottesville, Virginia. While prior flexibility efforts have focused on waiving some program requirements, the NCLB Act moves beyond this limited approach to give States and school districts unprecedented flexibility in the use of Federal education funds in exchange for strong accountability for results. No Child Left Behind in essence moves decision making away from Washington, D.C., and empowers states and local districts to make more decisions with federal funds for goals such as teacher quality, English language proficiency, technology, and after school enrichment.

— The Department of Education administers four major state grant programs -- Teacher Quality State Grants, Educational Technology, Innovative Programs, and Safe and Drug-Free Schools. New flexibility provisions in the NCLB Act will allow every school district in America to transfer up to 50 percent of the federal funding they receive between any one of these programs or to Title I. This will allow school districts to put resources into the programs that most closely match their unique local needs. States will be permitted to transfer may transfer up to 50 percent of their State administrative funding this way.

— The new law also includes a competitive State Flexibility Demonstration Program that permits up to seven States to consolidate the State administration and State activity funds from a variety of ESEA programs, including: the Innovative Programs Block Grant; the state administration components of Title I, Part A Grants (Education for the Disadvantaged); and the state administration and state activities components of Title I Part B (Reading First and Even Start). Participating States must enter an agreement with the Secretary covering the use of the consolidated funds, which may be used for any educational purpose authorized under the ESEA. As part of their plans, States also must enter into up to ten local performance agreements with districts, which will enjoy the same level of flexibility granted under the separate Local Flexibility Demonstration Program.

— A new Local Flexibility Demonstration Program would allow up 150 school districts to consolidate funds received under Teacher Quality State Grants, Educational Technology State Grants, Innovative Programs, and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools programs. Participating districts would enter into performance agreements with the Secretary of Education, and would be able to use the consolidated funds for any ESEA-authorized purpose.

Focusing Resources on Proven Educational Methods


— Not enough attention has been focused on ensuring that education dollars are invested in programs that are research-based and proven to be effective in educating our children - particularly on proven approaches to reading and math instruction.

— Federal education policy has often focused on adding new programs, rather than investing more resources into proven approaches that work. Over the years, programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) expanded from 6 in 1965 to 55 in 2001.


Putting Reading First

— The No Child Left Behind Act implements President Bush's unequivocal commitment to ensuring that every child can read by the third grade. To accomplish this goal, the new Reading First initiative will significantly increase the Federal investment in scientifically based reading instruction programs in the early grades. One major benefit of this approach will be reduced identification of children for special education services due to a lack of appropriate reading instruction in their early years.

— The NCLB Act fully implements the President's Reading First initiative. The new Reading First State Grant program will make 6-year grants to States, which will make competitive subgrants to local communities. Local recipients will administer screening and diagnostic assessments to determine which students in grades K-3 are at risk of reading failure, and provide professional development for K-3 teachers in the essential components of reading instruction.

— The new Early Reading First program will make competitive 6-year awards to districts to support early language, literacy, and pre-reading development of preschool-age children, particularly those from low-income families. Recipients will use instructional strategies and professional development drawn from scientifically based reading research to help young children to attain the fundamental knowledge and skills they will need for optimal reading development in kindergarten and beyond.

Consolidating and Streamlining Federal Education Programs

— The No Child Left Behind Act consolidates and streamlines programs and targets resources to existing programs that serve poor students. It reduces the overall number of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs from the 55 to 45 - ensuring that education dollars will be more carefully targeted.

— Improving Teacher Quality: NCLB combines the Eisenhower Professional Development and Class Size Reduction programs into a new Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program that focuses on using practices grounded in scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers. The new program gives States and districts flexibility to select the strategies that best meet their particular needs for improved teaching that will help them raise student achievement in the core academic subjects. In return for this flexibility, districts are required to demonstrate annual progress in ensuring that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects within the State are highly qualified.

— Improving Bilingual Education: The NCLB Act also simplifies Federal support for English language instruction by combining categorical bilingual and immigrant education grants, which previously benefited only a small percentage of limited English proficient students in relatively few schools, into a State formula program. The new formula program will facilitate comprehensive planning by States and school districts to ensure implementation of programs that benefit all limited English proficient students by helping them learn English and meet the same high academic standards as other students. The NCLB Act also inserts strong accountability into programs for bilingual students, requiring states to test limited English proficient children for reading and language arts in English after they have attended school in the United States for three consecutive years.

— Improving the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program: NCLB improves efforts to keep schools safe and drug-free, while at the same time ensuring that students-particularly those who have been victims of violent crimes on school grounds-are not trapped in persistently dangerous schools. As passed in No Child Left Behind, States must allow students who attend a persistently dangerous school, or who are victims of violent crime at school, to transfer to a safe school. States also must report school safety statistics to the public on a school-by-school basis, and districts must use Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities funding to implement drug and violence prevention programs of demonstrated effectiveness.

Historic Progress on Improved Educational Choices
and Options for Parents


— Too often, especially in low-income and minority areas, parents find their children trapped in persistently failing and dangerous public schools and have little or no recourse.


The No Child Left Behind Act makes historic progress in providing real choices for parents with children in chronically failing or unsafe schools. Expanding school choice and supplemental services will provide a substantial incentive for low-performing schools to improve. In order to avoid losing students-along with the portion of their annual budgets typically associated with those students- schools will have to improve or, if they fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress for 5 years, they run the risk of reconstitution under a restructuring plan. These new options will be made available immediately (for the 2002-03 school year) for students in thousands of schools already identified as failing under current law.

— School Choice: Districts must give students attending schools that are failing for at least two years the opportunity to attend a better public school, which may include a public charter school, within the school district.

— Support for Supplemental Services: For students attending persistently failing schools (those that have failed to meet State standards for at least 3 of the 4 preceding years), districts must provide Title I funds (approximately $500 to $1,000 per child) for low-achieving disadvantaged students in the school to obtain supplemental services -- tutoring, after school services, or summer school programs -- from the public- or private-sector provider selected by their parents from a State-approved list. Providers must meet State standards and offer services tailored to help participating students meet challenging State academic standards. To help ensure that districts offer meaningful choices, the new law requires school districts to spend up to 20 percent of their Title I allocations to provide public school choice and supplemental educational services to eligible students.

— Charter Schools: Expands the charter schools initiative, expanding opportunities for parents, educators and interested community leaders to create schools outside the education establishment. Authorizes $300 million in federal funds to states and local communities to help fund charter schools. Authorizes $150 million for the Charter School Facility Demonstration Project, which encourages schools and States to develop innovative approaches to funding charter school construction and infrastructure needs.

For more information on the President's initiatives, please visit

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