No Child Left Behind in Puerto Rico: How Does the No Child Left Behind Act Affect Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Students from Low-Income Communities

Emely E. Medina-Rodríguez, University of Puerto Rico, Leonard Ramirez*, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Abstract The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was created in 2001 to close the achievement gap between middle class White students and low-income minority students in the U.S. NCLB is also mandated in Puerto Rico and affects Puerto Rican educational institutions. Although this law has been studied in the U.S, its impact on territories distant from the mainland is less understood. Little is known, for example, about how NCLB affects Puerto Rican teachers’ attitudes, especially those working with students from low-income communities. Qualitative research methods were chosen to encourage teachers from an intermediate school in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, to express their perspectives from their own point of view regarding the NCLB Law and related themes. The school serves students from five surrounding public housing projects, and ninety-two percent of the student body came from households with an income below the poverty level. Statistics from Puerto Rico’s Department of Education also showed that this school had not met NCLB’s Adequate Yearly Progress requirement for the past five years. A snowball sample identified seven teacher and staff members’ participants, and they were interviewed using an instrument containing 26 open-ended questions.

Teachers emphasized the impact of the environmental and socio-cultural backgrounds of students from this low-income community on their lack of success on standardized tests and on their academic life. Teachers expect students to possess attitudes that reflect their lack of interest toward the educational process. They assume the children lack critical experiences and cultural capital and that this lack leads them to become disinterested in their own schooling. The data suggest NCLB aggravates teachers’ low expectations of local community students. To fully understand the implications of the implementation of NCLB in Puerto Rico we should consider the various factors that may affect the relationship between teachers and students. We must also examine options that reinforce the strengths of teachers and students taking into account the special needs of students and the challenges that confront teachers.

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