Academic Leadership: The Online Journal


Linda Dessoye


It has been several years since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was renamed the No Child Left Behind Act. In this major expansion of the federal role in education, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 required annual testing, specified a method for judging school effectiveness, set a timeline for progress, and established specific consequences in the case of failure (Wenning, 2003). The Washington Post referred to it as the “broadest rewriting of federal education policy in decades”(Milbank, 2002). The effects of the overwhelming pressure to perform well on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests on teachers, students, and parents had brought about “PSSA Panic and Paranoia.” Although strides have been made in overcoming the stress and pressure created by these tests, teachers (veteran and new), parents, and students are still showing signs of panic and paranoia. Now, young professionals entering this challenging field of teaching are also affected by the implementation of the NCLB legislation. The domino effect is profoundly influencing the education profession. The government pressures the state, the state pressures the schools, the schools pressure the educators, the educators pressure the parents and students, parents pressure the students and teachers, and finally, the students pressure themselves. Panic as defined by Dictionary.com Unabridged is “a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, which produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group. Paranoia is defined as “a baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts” (Random House, 2006). Signs of this “PSSA panic and paranoia” are still present today. Dedicated educators had embraced the challenge that President Bush put before them. Just as Ronald Edmonds had lectured years ago, teachers believe that effective schools do have closely monitored student achievement and orderly environments characterized by high expectations. Upon recognizing the positive aspects of the legislation, it is important to recognize what it is lacking. Two of these weaknesses attributing to the panic and paranoia are the amount of skills tested in a specified time frame and unrealistic, not high, expectations placed on teachers and students.