Date of Award


Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Abdulahi O. Salam. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Black Studies Program

First Advisor

Diane Downer Anderson


This paper uses the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to analyze the rise of meritocracy in American public education and its effect on low-income, minority students. NCLB grew out of a global need to produce, compete and innovate, and the public education infrastructure was used to manufacture workers. Schools focused on categorizing students by test scores and placing students on different educational, economic, and career paths. Success under meritocracy is individualist and disregards the systems of inequality that determine the losers and winners. Minority students are blamed for their lack of success instead of examining outside factors that dictate their living conditions. Meritocracy does not promote upward mobility for low-income, minority students; it abandons them in favor of students who have the luxury and luck to compete in the game of education. Schools should teach based on respect, equity, and fairness in place of a merit-based approach.