The Excellence for all Children Act (1999) set various goals in order to improve the United States’ standards of education. The Act was enacted to ensure that students graduating from American schools were in a position to compete in the global market. Furthermore, it was aimed at ensuring that all children have access to quality education that meets the international standards. Over the years, the government and other stakeholders, such as the parents and teachers, have worked tirelessly to see the goals realized. Unfortunately, the state of education, especially at the middle school level, is still wrangling with challenges and it has not improved much with time.
United States has put in place various measures to ensure that the goals set in the Excellence for all Children Act are achieved. Among the areas have seen a lot of improvement is the increased enrollment of children from poor families into elementary schools. Recently, there has been an enormous increase in the number of children attending junior schools - a trend that can be attributed to improved parental participation in child’s education. The enactment of “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” has also contributed greatly to ensuring that all children are incorporated into quality learning regardless of their family’s financial status. Though the estimated rate of 90% for the number of graduates from high school is yet to be achieved, the number has considerably increased.
Over the years, middle schools have been blamed because of bad behaviors, drug abuse, high rate of drop-out, and poor performance in national and international competitions. These challenges have continued to affect the state of education in middle schools. Researchers attribute this to lack of parent’s participation and to the emotional, physical as well as psychological changes that students face at this stage. The competency of students leaving grade 4, 8 and 12 in mathematics and sciences has not improved either. International comparison studies have shown that students in elementary school perform better in mathematics and sciences, but this drops once they get to the middle school. National tests have shown that 8th graders, especially the Latinos and African-Americans, perform poorly in mathematics and science (National Center for Education Statistics, 1996). Nevertheless, the performance gaps between the whites and other groups have narrowed over the time, which shows that the measures put in place in order to minimize the disparities have worked.
According to National Assessment of Adult Literacy, there has been an increase in literacy level of adults above 16 years in the US (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2005). The survey conducted in 2005 established that more people in US could read and write without much difficulty. The goal aimed at ensuring that every school in the United States is free from violence, drugs, firearms and alcohol has still a long way towards being a reality. In recent times, there have been various incidences when a student walks to a classroom, shoots his colleagues and teachers at cold blood and proceeds to murder himself. Such behavior may result from drug abuse, peer pressure or stress.
Moreover, it has been found that U.S. students perform relatively lower as compared to students in other developed countries having the same mode of teaching. A research done by National Middle School Association found out that children in the U.S. do not start out behind those of other countries in mathematics and science performance, but they do lag behind by the end of the middle school level. The level of performance has been also affected by group differences. Thus, as it was mentioned above, the performance of whites is relatively high as compared to that of Black-Americans, but according to the latest statistics the gap has progressively narrowed. Differences in performance have also been associated with learning environments. Students from rich families who attend first class schools perform much better in their national exams as compared to those from poor families. The No Child Left Behind Act was put in place to ensure all groups are accounted for in order to narrow the differences in performance. The measures put in place have worked effectively, but still much more needs to be done.
In 2009, an estimate of 89.8 percent of 18- through 24-year-olds had either received a high school diploma or other alternative credential. Overall high school completion rates have increased since 1972. The rate was at 83.9 percent in 1980 and rose to 89.8 percent in 2009.
(Common Core of Data, 2009). States in the west had slightly higher completion rates as compared to those in the east. In 2009, more girls graduated from high school than boys.
To ensure a successful implementation of Excellence for all Children Act, the local board can integrate and use various techniques. For instance, the board should ensure full participation of parents and teachers in molding and motivating children to work hard in school. Low self-esteem and less involvement of parents have contributed to the fact that many students perform poorly and others drop out of school. Bright students from financially disadvantaged families end up dropping school at some higher level due to lack of finances to cover school fees. The government should come up with an initiative to help fund the education of the underprivileged. The school board should set up targets and lay out proper procedures of achieving them. They should create competition within the school and keep encouraging the students to perform better. With the students competing among themselves, a platform for tackling the national exams will be created. This will also help students bring out their creativity skills and facilitate innovations.
The goals set by Excellence for all Children Act (1999) have continued to provide a benchmark for schools to evaluate themselves in their efforts to standardize their learning environment. Although some goals are yet to be fully achieved, we should appreciate the positive changes seen in our schools.