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Special Education and the Principles of NCLB 2001

A democratic society should provide equal opportunities for all citizens in all spheres of life. Moreover, since the appropriate educational level is one of the main factors that determine the successful future of every person, it should be the first consideration of the state to provide qualitative education to all citizens. Some people need special attention and education: they are students with disabilities. The rights of people with disabilities should be legally protected; this is why the analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is needed. It is necessary to analyze if the NCLB can fulfill its main function: to improve the educational performance of all students (Rosenberg et al., 2007, p.42) including traditionally undeserved groups (Bursztyn, 2007, p.43) and change America’s schools (Whimshurst and Brue, 2005, p.39).

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The first principle, strong accountability for results (Rosenberg et al. 2007), has both positive and negative consequences for students with disabilities and all participants of the special education process. The positive effect of this principle is the increase of responsibility of a school in front of the state. If individual control of all educational establishments is applied, every school will try to improve its performance. If such methods as individual approaches to all students, innovative techniques, and experimental methods are applied at schools, positive results of work will appear. However, the question remains, if the progress of students with disabilities should be assessed while determining the effectiveness of the work of the school. There is the risk of false assessment of the progress of such students that will present overrated results of their work thus distorting the real situation. However, the positive point concerning this principle is that NCLB “allows … to exempt 1% of all students from the usual assessment” (Rosenberg et al., 2007, p.43). This is, by all means, just if students with severe disabilities are free from standardized assessment, but the question about the appropriate way of their assessment remains. It is necessary to determine if “alternative measures” of assessment fit the demands and are appropriate for students. Besides, the parents of that 9% of students whose progress will not be assessed will not get the opportunity to get the picture of the quality of progress of their children.

As for expanded flexibility and local control, there are more pros of the principle and the positive points are common for education, on the whole, special education included. Local officials are better informed about the problems in their region, they have a more detailed picture of the diversity of schools and academic audiences. In case, if they cooperate with the heads of schools, and if the latter provides a detailed account of the needs of students with disabilities, it is possible to get additional finance for programs for such students.

The application of methods based on scientific research is also beneficial for students with disabilities. Scientifically based approaches will be grounded on the psychological and physiological characteristics of students. Though teaching is art, it is also a science. Intuition and experience cannot be the only basis for teaching, the application of scientifically tested and designed methods is needed. If the curriculum and teaching methods are scientifically approved, it means that students with disabilities will get more chances to perform better as the emphasis will be made on their strong points. The weak point of the principle is the risk of application of a standardized approach when the individual approach is needed.

Expanded options for parents are the advantage of NCBL that makes parents active participants in the educational process. The advantage of the Act is that “you can choose to have your child transferred to a better-performing school” if your school does not meet the demands (Rosenberg et al., 2007, p.45). This means that the student will not be doomed to low progress at the only school available to him/her. Besides, parents are free to decide if their children need tutoring or remedial classes (Whimshurst and Brue, 2005, p.41). Still, the negative consequence of this principle may be a frequent unnecessary change of schools that will damage student’s progress and will create new difficulties for schools.

Finally, the principle of high qualification of teachers should be analyzed as it is rather controversial for special educators. The high qualification of teachers is an advantage for students who will get a better education. However, teachers find the demands burdensome and confusing as they add new demands, such as to demonstrate knowledge in all subject spheres secondary special teachers teach.

It may be stated that NCBL has several strong points as well as disadvantages. Only practice will show its effectiveness. NCBL pays special attention to students with disabilities and this is the strongest point of the Act. NBCL is aimed at all participants of the educational process: students, teachers, parents, officials, and the state. The only thing that should be taken into account is that standardized methods cannot be applied with students with disabilities; they need an individual but scientifically grounded approach.

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Reference List

Bursztyn, A. (2007). The Praeger Handbook of Special Education. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Rosenberg, M.S., Westling, D.L., and McLeskey J. (2007). Special Education for Today’s Teachers: An Introduction. USA: Pretence Hall.

Wilmshhurst, L., and Brue A.W. (2005). A Parent’s Guide to Special Education: Insider Advice on How to Navigate the System and Help Your Child Succeed. USA: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

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