When congress passed and the president signed NCLB, they were trying to get schools to reform through a carrot and stick approach. Albeit, mostly by using the stick.
As schools around the country zero in on the requirements of reaching AYP, many are trying their own version of carrot and stick. Namely, they chain the teachers to the oars by making their job security contingent upon their students scoring well on the tests. Or they may offer certain financial incentives available for those teachers whose pupils score high enough on the exam. Either way, the focus is upon accountability and performance, which was the whole reason for the law in the first place.
Unfortunately, NCLB and IDEA are not mixing too well. IDEA requires students to be educated in the least restrictive environment, which means as many as possible should be mainstreamed into regular education classes. Okay, so what? The problem comes to light as schools start trying to match students and teachers for the upcoming year. Ideally, you would want those students who need the most help to have the best and most qualified teachers. But having mainstreamed special ed. students is going to drag the class average down. So a good teacher, willing to work with these students either risk their jobs or risk forfeiting financial incentives.
And I've heard about this being played out at schools tying teacher incentives to performance. The teachers simply do not want special ed. students in their classrooms. Why would they? These students are behind, and tend to get further behind as time goes on without more vigorous time and attention being devoted to their individual needs. That's the whole idea behind an IEP.
NCLB is a massive campaign to bring massive numbers of students to a certain standard dictated by higher levels of government. IDEA is an effort to serve and protect individual students based on their individual needs as determined by a small, intimate committee. The goals of these two federal mandates are to educate all children, but their methods and tactics are precise opposites. NCLB does not look at individual improvement, but looks at the performance of entire groups and subgroups and comparing them to a standard that is independent of the needs of the group. This is a total contradiction as to how students are treated under IDEA.
The ones who suffer greatest in the ensuing tension, are the students. Now we have an entire class of students who are unwanted. Getting teachers to devote the necessary time and energy into teaching individuals with special needs in a regular education setting has always been a hard sell, but now it is even harder. Parents will have to exercise even more diligence. Parents of exceptional needs students have always suspected that their children were not wanted or appreciated compared to "normal" children. Now their suspicions are even more well-founded. With the high stakes of NCLB and making AYP, the ground for discrimination is even more fertile since the days before laws were made to protect them.
Other groups, such as low income students and minority students might also become targets of discrimination, but the laws against discriminating against them are less at odds with NCLB than IDEA. For the law requires that they (minority and low SES students) be treated the same as other students. However, with special ed. students, IDEA requires that they be treated differently according to the terms of the IEP.
NCLB's one redeeming virtue in this, is that it does not permit the exclusion of those in special education. So they can't simply be forgotten, even if they are not particularly wanted.