POL 201 Week 5 Final Rough Draft: Federalism and Its Role in the No Child Left Behind Act

Federalism and Its Role in the No Child Left Behind Act

POL201: American Government


Federalism and Educational Reform Federal assertiveness in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) is an essential change from a tradition held for a long time about the federal permissiveness. The federal government has been playing a vital role in ensuring that each state gets authority from the constitution over public education. Besides, as McGuinn points out, the federal government has made considerable efforts to ensure the whole American public follows all the guidelines set to locally control all public schools in the state (2016). Due to the development of the No Child Left Behind Act, a robust federal government has come into existence (McGuinn, 2015). To be sure about this emergency, the national examination has been eliminated. Each state is now able to design its unique academic standards and make decisions about issues to do with underperforming schools that do not perform (Janson, 2011). Also, federal law makes it a requirement that schools are countable. The federal government calls for evidence-based practices be employed like annual standardized testing. Detailed research is, therefore, essential to help gain an understanding of the role of federalism in the no child left behind education. The report is an overview of how federal law affected students with learning and attention issues.

Historical and Constitutional Background

The United States has, in U.S. history, made efforts to enhance every opportunity in education for its citizens. To successfully implement the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), it involved a blend of both resources and the prerogatives of the U.S. federal government, local school districts as well as the states. Kaestle asserts that not every time do initiatives stem from the federal government, but sometimes states have proved to be innovators (2016). A good example in history where states have been models for Federal education initiates is the United States.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, the federal government’s dramatic foray into both elementary and secondary school public education policymaking terrain was represented (Heise, 2017). While opponents criticized the overreliance of the Act on standardized tests and its associated reduction in school-district and autonomy of the state, proponents held that the goals of the NCLBA that were to close the achievement between the middle-class, the upper-class, and the historically ill-served students by their schools (Heise, 2017). Following the Act’s implementation, the federal government has played a lot.

The federal government has had many Roles in the No Child Left behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was signed into effect in 2001 by President George W. Bush in 2002. This was a version of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA). It stayed in the process until 2015 when it was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To begin with, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed the federal’s focus to the disadvantaged students. As a result, the federal adopted an anti-poverty education program in 1965 (Janson, 2011). Besides, the federal government, through its powers, has had some changes made on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), precisely the title of the policy.

Second, through the increased intergovernmental transfers from the state government, the federal government supports at the local level, as Janson (2011) explains, various school activities. Third, federalism has for long focused on redistribution of categorical programs which encouraged racial desegregation, protected the disabled’s rights to education, and provision of educational resources to children from deprived backgrounds (Janson, 2011). Lastly, by engaging in the redistributive policy, federalism advocated for high priorities in spending for both public elementary and secondary schools. By these actions, federalism plays a useful role in the NCLBA.

Checks and Balances

When NCLB was in effect, it accomplished programs in every public school in the United States. According to Janson, its responsibilities included making provisions for disadvantaged students, as well as students that were in poverty, minorities, students receiving special education services and those who speak and understand limited or no English (2011). It was different from the previous version of ESEA. It held schools accountable. The federal government’s responsibility was to issue funds to support the school’s academic programs and then monitor the activities to see that the schools were using the funds to establish standards and guidelines by developing a curriculum and a testing regime that would align with those standards (Janson, 2011). It held schools accountable for how they learned in several ways:

Annual testing

A significant and central component of the NCLBA was the statewide administration of standardized tests to every student in schools. Schools were responsible for giving students statewide math and reading tests every year in grades 3-8 and one for students in grades 10-12 (Janson, 2011). The parents had rights to get individual testing results, but the schools had to report school and subgroups results publicly. An example would be that schools had to report the tests results on reading and math tests for students with special needs.

Academic progress

All states were required to bring students to the proficient level on criteria, including those in special education. They had to set target goals for improvements called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The state government would have the school evaluated and send out report cards showing the progress each school had made (Wrabel et al., 2018). The schools were then required to share this information with the parents of their students. If the school did not meet the AYP requirement, it would be labeled as “needing improvement.”


If there was a school that accommodated low-income students, they were called Title 1 schools. If that school did not meet the AYP requirements, NCLB would allow the state government to change the school’s leadership team (principal, staff, and teachers) or even close down the school. If the school had a repetitive history of not meeting NCLB standards, parents would have the option of moving their children from that school to a more progressive AYP accredited school. For any district school to receive the Title I funding, it was a must that the school demonstrates an Adequate Yearly Progress (Wrabel et al., 2018). This implied that the students’ test scores had to have improved than the previous year scores. The goals of the AYP were to encourage schools to improve their services and instructions for students who were struggling, including children in special education (Janson, 2011). These penalties did not apply to non-Title one schools.

Public Policy, Elections, and Media

One incredible achievement our founding fathers created was the constitutional structure of political institutions. The two most important aspects of the U.S. Constitution, Federalism and the Separation of Powers, represents how the federal government divides powers between the national and state government and how it influences both (Fine, 2016). Most of the federal laws in the U.S. are not meant to be permanent. They need to be reauthorized every few years. NCLB spent many years in limbo, waiting for reauthorization (Matthews et al., 2015). With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) coming into effect as a law, it kept some parts of NCLB and repealed others (Heise, 2017). An impact was felt on policies.

One achievement of the federal assertiveness in the NCLBA was the permission of the state governments to have some constitutional authority over the U.S. public education. As such, the states required every public to adhere to the ethos of the local control over all

public schools (Bowman & Reinhardt, 2018). Second, because of the emergence and

enactment of the NCLBA, there was the implementation of the testing and accountability policy. Initially, the states were accountable for how schools performed (Bowman, N., & Reinhardt). Immediately after the NCLBA was passed, standardized tests were a policy for all schools in the United States. Also, accountability for performance and quality of results in schools was the schools’ role. Third, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act declared various education programs and titles which included all children, migrants, neglected children, delinquent, and disabled children (Matthews et al., 2015). This came after the Bilingual Education Act was passed.

Lastly, each state was required to submit a plan of execution for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The idea was to be modeled by each state in such a way that the academic goals would be met (Heise, 2017). This information was finally to be made available through media. Availability of this information was to provide a clear picture of how the states were working closely with the federal government in the enactment of educational laws and facilitating student success.

Voting and the Election Process

The NCLBA also had some relationship with the election and voting processes. The Department of Education after the Act was enacted had to implement an action plan that would ensure the success of every student, the Every Student Succeed Act (Kaestle, 2018). The Department had also to ensure that it acts most strictly. To facilitate the participation of all people, the plan involved the Committee on Education and Workforce, the House of Representatives, teachers, and the public in general (Wrabel et al., 2018). The Education Committee Workforce and the House Representatives were arrived at through the election process. People were allowed to participate by airing views and opinions about the plan, which would ensure all students succeeded in the U.S. public schools.

Campaigns and election was an aspect associated with the NCLBA. The Act played an important role in elections, from the White House Representatives to the local school boards (Janson, 2011). Since the enactment of the Act, many presidents of the United States have taken the initiative to use the bully pulpit of the U.S White House to address the nation’s public education. President George W. Bush was the first president to declare himself as the “education president.” Bill Clinton, on the other hand, advanced the movement of standards and accountability, promoting several initiatives like school uniforms (Wrabel et al., 2018). Bush also brought the Republicans and the Democrats together in Congress, supporting the expansion of the federal authority concerning the NCLBA.

As the role of the federal government grew, the No Child Left Behind topic grew more prominent as one of the campaign issues involved in the presidential elections in the United States. Also, the make-up of the U.S. House of Representatives has changed since the NCLBA was passed (Janson, 2011). Many tea party Republicans who were added after the 2010 elections made the landscape for the U.S. federal policy challenging to predict. As opposed to the period before, greater partisanship and a lot of cohesive parties have now been involved in divisive issues involving federal education policy.


In conclusion, and from the ongoing, it is clear how a performance-based paradigm can be institutionalized in a given intergovernmental policy. Categorical management should, therefore, be the most preferred strategy in government operations at all levels. Due to the growing number of concerns on academic performance, the politics of accountability leads to

increased involvement in education. Since the Act was passed, the federal government has had many Roles in the No Child Left behind Act (NCLB). A lot of changes have taken place. Check, and balance systems have experienced changes due to the involvement of the federal government in the No Child Left behind Act. Through checks and balances, the federal government took the initiative to cater to the educational needs of all children irrespective of their physical abilities, family background, and origin, all in an inclusive manner.

Similarly, standardized tests, penalties, and academic progress have been introduced to ensure children receive the best quality of education. The constitutional structure of political institutions also changed, sharing powers in matters involving education between states and the federal government (Fine, 2016). Additionally, other people involved in the education policy were chosen carefully to represent the interests of the public while, through media, progress for the disadvantaged students’ achievement was to be made available to the public. Lastly, enactment of the NCLBA has been one of the campaign agendas, with state governers taking the issue to the White House to address the critical topic of public education. All the changes that have taken place since had impacts worth the NCLB Act. The quality of education has improved since then, inclusivity in schools has been achieved, and every child has had an opportunity to set foot into a classroom. Thus, in general, NCLBA was enacted for the best of the country and its people.


Bowman, N., & Reinhardt, M. (2018). Tribal consultation under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Midwest comprehensive center.

Fine, T. S., & Levin-Waldman, O. M. (2016). American Government (2nd ed.). Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Heise, M. (2017). From No Child Left Behind to Every Student Succeeds: Back to a Future for Education Federalism. Colum. L. Rev., 117, 1859.

Janson, R. H. (2011). Federalism and the No Child Left Behind Act: An analysis using constitutional systems and adaptive work frameworks McGuinn, P. (2016).

Kaestle, C. (2016). Federalism and Inequality in Education: What Can History Tell Us?. The dynamics of opportunity in America (pp. 35-96). Springer, Cham.

McGuinn, P. (2016). From No Chid Left Behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Federalism and the Education legacy of the Obama administration. Publius: The Journal of Federalism. 46(3), 392-415.

Matthews, H., Schulman, K., Vogtman, J., Johnson-Staub, C., & Blank, H. (2015). Implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization: A Guide for States. Center for Law and Social Policy, Inc.(CLASP).

References continued:

Wong, K. K. 3 The implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act: toward performance-based federalism in U.S. education policy.

Wrabel, S. L., Saultz, A., Polikoff, M. S., McEachin, A., & Duque, M. (2018). The politics of elementary and secondary education act waivers. Educational Policy, 32(1), 117-140.

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