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Magazine / EDUCATION

Report Card

With help from education experts, NJ grades the landmark No Child Left Behind Act 10 years after its enactment.

Mixed results: No Child Left Behind has not dramatically boosted student performance.(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

photo of Fawn Johnson
December 8, 2011

Jan. 8, 2012, will mark the 10-year anniversary of President George W. Bush’s signature on his top domestic priority, the No Child Left Behind Act. The standards-setting education law was unquestionably groundbreaking, even though a decade of experience has revealed deep flaws in its measurement systems. Undaunted, its defenders stand by its original premise—that public schools should take responsibility for the academic achievement of all their students.

The law was a product of political circumstances that would be impossible to replicate today. Unapologetic liberals teamed with conservatives in Congress and the White House to craft a monitoring system for schools that for the first time provided comparable data about students’ abilities in math and reading. The law required all students to take standardized tests once a year, and it mandated that schools show they were improving their performance from year to year.

The measure passed the House and Senate with sweeping bipartisan majorities, a feat that reflected a year of in-depth and difficult negotiations between the administration and Congress. At certain points, the legislation stayed alive only because the authors stubbornly refused to give up. The Democratic sponsors fended off teachers unions, and the Republicans deflected conservatives railing against bigger government. The sponsors forged compromises across the aisle and then cajoled their constituencies into backing their efforts.

 

It worked. In the House, the vote on the final conference report was 381-41. The Senate vote was 87-10.

“The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning,” Bush told a cheering crowd at a high school in Hamilton, Ohio, on the day he signed the bill. “Every school has a job to do, and that’s to teach the basics and teach them well. If we want to make sure no child is left behind, every child must learn to read. And every child must learn to add and subtract.”

As a country, we have not come close to achieving that goal, but No Child Left Behind has greatly informed our understanding of how far we have to go. School districts and states are now accustomed to giving their students standardized tests and reporting the results. Just as importantly, achievement among minorities and disadvantaged kids is disaggregated, or examined separately, highlighting potential problem areas in schools and communities. Forty-five states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have adopted new state-determined Common Core standards for education.

The results from all of that testing are not very encouraging. In global comparisons, 15-year-olds in the United States rank 14th in reading and 25th in math. Scores have increased slowly and steadily over the past 20 years, but No Child Left Behind did not cause a noticeable uptick.

The law had problems from the beginning. Administrators spent much of their time trying to get their schools in compliance on paper rather than implementing the kind of radical changes the sponsors envisioned. The paperwork burdens were tremendous. The teacher-certification requirements were pretty much a waste of time. Loopholes in the funding provisions had the practical effect of ensuring that financially poor schools still got less money than those in well-off areas. Some states lowered their academic standards to “improve” their performance.

The failure at all levels of government to deliver promised resources to ailing schools made it impossible to give disadvantaged students all the benefits to which they were entitled. It’s a matter of debate where the blame lies for the lack of funding, but it’s fair to say that the education statute is not the sole cause.

Now, No Child Left Behind’s chapter in history is about to close. Lawmakers are proposing to dismantle the law, citing complaints about its one-size-fits-all approach and its effect of encouraging schools to “teach to the test.” Because thousands of schools could lose funding for falling short of the law’s achievement levels, the Education Department is offering to waive some requirements for states that meet certain criteria.

“Very few [school districts] stepped up and said, ‘Whoa, we’ve really got to do things differently here.’ ” —Rep. George Miller, an author of No Child Left Behind

Against this backdrop, National Journal asked 21 education experts—the law’s authors, other lawmakers, school officials, academics, and advocates with a variety of perspectives—to evaluate No Child Left Behind’s effectiveness based on its original goals.

It is no simple task to judge a law, particularly one that was enacted after a year of intense bipartisan negotiations in which everyone involved gave up something they cared about. The deal they reached, letting the states set many of the benchmarks, was imperfect from the get-go.

About half of the participants in NJ’s survey declined to give letter grades to the individual components of No Child Left Behind, saying that state implementation was so varied that nationwide judgments were impossible. The experts’ struggle to assess the law mirrors the statute’s own contradictions which labels schools as “blue ribbon” or “failing” even though its report cards miss broad components of learning and despite the fact that states have learned to game the system.

Nevertheless, participants were in striking agreement on what worked and what didn’t. Based on their assessments, NJ rendered its own judgment of the law’s individual components—positive, mixed, and negative.

THE RESULTS IN BRIEF

Of the seven objectives that NJ identified, the experts considered the law’s spotlight on student achievement its only success.

Collectively, they found no net positive effect from any of No Child Left Behind’s primary goals:

• The law did not achieve its defining goal—accountability—but it spurred states and school boards to rethink how they assess and run their education systems. Some called this an achievement in itself.

• The law failed to close the achievement gap between well-off white children and minority or low-income students. But that goal was always more of an aspiration than a realistic objective.

• No Child Left Behind was an outright failure at ensuring teacher effectiveness. Its certification requirements were ineffective; but, at minimum, it focused educators on evaluating teachers.

• On perhaps its most basic goal, improving overall student performance, the law did not dramatically boost students’ scores, but neither did it inhibit their progress.

NJ identified three secondary goals of No Child Left Behind. The experts considered these less important, but many saw them as key elements in achieving one or more of the primary goals.

• The spotlight on student achievement is the law’s one undisputed success. The intense focus on students’ reading and math proficiency within different subgroups is the game-changer that will endure into the next chapter of education policy.

• Observers hotly debate the law’s effect on research and data. Some experts told NJ that the more frequent use of data has made a big difference in helping schools understand student progress. Others said that the data don’t add up to a coherent picture of student achievement.

• No Child Left Behind failed to improve school choice. Children stuck in failing schools still have little, if any, chance of transferring to better ones.

Full disclosure: NJ’s own measuring tool misses some of the education law’s key achievements. It does not fully capture the jump in public awareness about student achievement and teacher credentials, and it doesn’t reflect the impact of the state-led effort to craft Common Core achievement standards, a direct reaction to No Child Left Behind.

(Mixed results) ACCOUNTABILITY
Assessments Consistent, But States Game the System

The goal behind the accountability provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act was simple: Show parents and teachers whether schools are teaching children to read and write, and hold the schools accountable if they aren’t. The law grades schools based on how well they are progressing toward those goals. Test data are broken out by race, gender, and other socioeconomic factors.

No Child Left Behind got about halfway there in getting schools to account for the achievement, or failure, of their students. We know a lot more than we did 10 years ago about students’ math and reading abilities. As states have implemented annual standardized tests in reading and math for children in grades three through eight, assessments have become more consistent. Because schools report scores by subgroups, administrators can no longer hide behind their top students to mask the failing ones.

The mandated assessments have prompted a flurry of kindergarten-12 activity at the state level. All states now have academic standards and sophisticated devices for measuring student progress. Before No Child Left Behind, only a smattering of states had such programs in place.

But the law fumbled its measurement and enforcement mechanisms. It allowed states to create their own assessment tools, thus fragmenting the system and making it impossible to tell from state to state how students were performing. School administrators supplanted the initial goal of boosting student achievement with a more benign one—simple regulatory compliance. Achieving compliance became a paper game to jerry-rig the benchmarks so that more schools could meet them.

Because low achievement led to sanctions, some school districts did everything they could to avoid letting the true story of their failures come out. “Very few stepped up and said, ‘Whoa, we’ve really got to do things differently here.’ They were managing it. That’s why they were pushing the kids so hard, teaching to the test,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., one of the law’s authors.

To ensure that some federal teeth survived in the state-determined assessment system, the law’s authors inserted a 2014 deadline by which all public-school students should be at grade level. Schools that don’t achieve that goal face punitive consequences. Under that measure, more than 80 percent of the nation’s schools could be labeled as failing next year.

That looming measurement of overwhelming failure offers the best example of where the accountability feature of No Child Left Behind crumbled. “Failure” was only supposed to occur in isolated instances and was supposed to signal to states and the federal government where they needed to intervene with more management—and, importantly, more money.

The federal money didn’t materialize, and states skirted their interim proficiency targets by tinkering with their standards. “Expectations, in the form of state-set standards and assessments, were too varied and, for the most part, too low,” said Kati Haycock president of the Education Trust, an education-reform group.

The law inserted, a new device—the prospect of penalties—into five decades of K-12 policy; the result was curricula that closely focused on easily measurable outcomes. “Tests become high stakes when we attach sanctions,” said Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado (Boulder). “We see the now-familiar signs of goal displacement—narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, cheating, etc.”

The harshest critics of No Child Left Behind say that the proficiency requirements are both meaningless and restrictive. “No Child Left Behind established unrealistic targets, failed to provide schools with resources to meet those targets, and labeled and punished schools based on flawed indicators,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

The law’s defenders acknowledge these shortcomings, but they stand by its central premise that schools should face consequences when their students aren’t functioning at grade level.

Infographic

“Yes, we can get a new speedometer. I’m not opposed to that. But will it close the achievement gap in and of itself? Hell, no. It just moves the goalposts,” said Margaret Spellings, who as Bush’s Education secretary helped to implement No Child Left Behind. “If it’s just information for information’s sake, that’s a nothing burger. It just is.”

(Mixed results) ACHIEVEMENT GAP
Gap Remains, but Educators Now See It

The law’s name alone spotlights its fundamental goal of bringing all children up to grade level, regardless of race, disability, or poverty. Those who fall behind are supposed to get supplemental services to help them catch up. If their school can’t provide those services, students should have access to one that can.

When No Child Left Behind was being written, black and Hispanic students lagged far behind white students in reading and math. They still do, although the achievement gap has narrowed slightly in some areas, according to the Education Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. Hispanic eighth-graders this year nudged 2 points closer than they were in 2009 to white students’ scores in reading.

The disparity is still big. Hispanics’ scores of 252 in reading are now 22 points lower than their white peers’ scores of 274. If the 2-point gain doesn’t seem like much, consider this: It equals the improvement that Hispanics made from 1992 to 2009.

Leaving aside the comparison with whites, minority students have made dramatic improvements over the past two decades. Math scores among African-American fourth-graders and Hispanic fourth-graders are up three full grade levels since 1990. In reading, both groups have advanced about one grade level higher since 1992. Among eighth-graders, Hispanics and blacks advanced more than two grade levels in math and one grade level in reading. It isn’t clear, however, that No Child Left behind had much to do with those improvements.

The education law can claim a major, if somewhat disquieting, success in letting people know just how far behind some students lag. “No Child Left Behind was enormously successful in spotlighting the significant, persistent achievement gaps at the school, district, state, and national level,” said Patrick Riccards, who heads ConnCAN, an education-reform group in Connecticut that has inspired sister chapters in several other states.

No Child Left Behind came along at the midpoint of the achievement trend for students, and it didn’t alter that momentum in any significant way. Most experts agree, however, that the law didn’t hurt either. “White students are not standing in place while minority students gain ground,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

Eliminating the achievement gap will require more than just highlighting the disparities, Domenech said. Fully addressing the problem requires the kind of commitment to improving poor performers that many schools can’t or won’t undertake. It would mean longer school days, a longer school year, and more support services.

“What would happen if every kid who was eligible actually got tutoring? What would that look like?” former Secretary Spellings asked. Implicit in her question is an acknowledgement that even though No Child Left Behind starkly outlined the magnitude of the challenge, it couldn’t by itself bring poor and minority children up to grade level.

“If a major component of No Child Left Behind was closing the achievement gaps between subgroups of students, it is hard to claim that it was successful,” said Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., the ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

(Mixed results) STUDENT IMPROVEMENT
Scores Have Risen Modestly

The authors of No Child Left Behind envisioned a system in which all students would be given the chance to improve. If provided that opportunity, the reasoning went, all children would improve.

And they have, slowly.

Student reading and math scores have trended upward since 1990. Public schools’ academic performance is at its highest point ever. Math scores, in particular, have shown a small but distinct increase in recent years. That is no small accomplishment, given the budget shortfalls in school districts around the country.

Achievement levels still aren’t anything to crow about, however. The National Assessment for Educational Progress puts math proficiency for fourth-graders at 40 percent. For eighth-graders, it is 35 percent. Reading proficiency is at 34 percent in both grades. Unless you’re grading on a pretty sharp curve, that’s an F. No evidence shows that No Child Left Behind affected student scores in either direction. In reading and math, the law probably didn’t do any harm and quite possibly propelled acceleration where it otherwise might have slowed.

One undisputed bright spot shines. No Child Left Behind requires a Nation’s Report Card every two years from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is widely considered to have the most reliable data on student achievement. (Before the 2002 law, the national assessments were done on an ad hoc basis as time and money permitted.)

The Nation’s Report Card makes for uncomfortable reading because it doesn’t lie. It is a reality check on the halfhearted testing schemes that some states and school districts have used to artificially elevate their students’ scores.

“Yes, we can get a new speedometer. I’m not opposed to that. But will it close the achievement gap in and of itself? Hell, no.” —Former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings

Critics say that the real damage from No Child Left Behind comes from curricula too focused on reading and math, coupled with standardized tests that don’t measure comprehension. Under the law, testing became its own game, which further narrowed the focus within math and reading instruction. Not surprisingly, this trend occurred most frequently in the poorest schools that were most in danger of sanctions under the law. Allowing the states to implement No Child Left Behind, a major concession by its congressional authors, has been detrimental to student achievement in some places, because states have lowered their standards so that fewer schools will be labeled as failing.

“When schools with multiple goals are held accountable only for basic skills in math and reading, they rationally shift emphasis away from history, the sciences, the arts, civic participation, character development, physical fitness, and health,” said Richard Rothstein, an education researcher at the Economic Policy Institute. “The more inexpensive the tests, the more they focus on recall rather than reasoning.” Tests that can be electronically graded, for example, don’t measure reasoning ability as well as, say, essay tests.

State implementation also hurt some students because they suddenly had to do less to be considered proficient. The law “inadvertently and perversely created incentives for states to lower standards while giving school systems opportunities to take only token steps to fix failing schools,” said Thomas Toch, an education journalist who cofounded the research group Education Sector.

That outcome is most definitely not what educators or the law’s drafters intended, which makes it difficult to say that No Child Left Behind succeeded in improving students’ performance. “The reason we’re doing all of this is to ‘dramatically’ improve student outcomes. That adverb is so important. It means we can’t be satisfied with a little bit of progress,” said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

(Failure) EFFECTIVE TEACHERS
Certification Is a Paper Shuffle

No Child Left Behind was intended to ensure high-quality teachers in every school, regardless of poverty level or neighborhood. It aimed to prevent school districts from concentrating low-performing teachers in poor areas where parents were less likely to complain.

The law didn’t even get out of the starting gate in rectifying that situation. Faced with a torrent of protests from teachers unions and schools, the authors stopped short of mandating an ultimate “effectiveness” goal and settled for requiring teacher certifications. To be considered “highly qualified” under the law, teachers need two things—a bachelor’s degree in the subject they teach and a teaching credential.

Teachers and school administrators describe the law’s certification requirements as ludicrous and time-consuming, causing bureaucratic headaches while doing nothing to indicate a teacher’s abilities. Teacher evaluations and professional-development efforts continue on an ad hoc basis depending on the state and the district, but they have little to do with the check-the-box credentialing.

In poor areas, boosting teacher quality is largely a problem of resources. The law requires states to distribute money evenly, but they often find a way out. “The law contains several loopholes that are big enough to drive a truck through,” said Haycock, the Education Trust president, who is a staunch defender of many of its provisions. “District budgeting practices end up favoring schools serving the fewest poor children, in some cases by as much as $1 million a year.”

Infographic

Among the experts NJ polled, the term “failure” popped up most frequently when referring to this part of the statute. “The highly qualified teacher provision, in particular, has meant merely one more paper shuffle. Indeed, it has proven a distraction,” said Frederick Hess, director of education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

The law’s teacher-effectiveness provisions exist largely because of Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Before Miller began negotiating No Child Left Behind in 2001, he had already spent 10 years fighting for teacher-certification mandates. He was mostly on his own. In 1994, he lost a House floor vote, 424-1, on his proposal to require states to certify all teachers and set aside funds to pay exceptional teachers higher salaries.

Miller hoped to eradicate a practice in California in which teachers with temporary certificates were spending six or seven years on the job in bad schools.

“As the lead negotiator for the House Democrats, I can tell you that these [teacher] provisions were hard fought,” said Charles Barone, federal-policy director at Democrats for Education Reform. Barone, who worked for Miller when No Child Left Behind was being drafted, said that Democrats wound up giving worried naysayers “the benefit of the doubt” by allowing states to come up with their own teacher-evaluation systems. That concession effectively torpedoed the provision’s goals.

“We now know that just because teachers are certified in their core subject matter, it doesn’t mean they are actually ‘effective,’ ” said House Speaker John Boehner, who chaired the House Education panel in 2001 and wrote No Child Left Behind with Miller.

Then and now, the unions are the harshest critics of the law’s teacher-effectiveness provisions. “The approach relied on arbitrary and narrow measures,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. At the same time, she added, the law did little to provide teachers with what they needed to improve, such as in-service training and job-embedded professional development.

(Success) SPOTLIGHT ON ACHIEVEMENT
School Data Is a Public Commodity

The law’s drafters wanted to take a snapshot of schools and broadcast students’ skills (or lack thereof) to the world. On that objective, No Child Left Behind succeeded.

In the history of the laws governing K-12 public education, the focus on student achievement has never been as intense as it has been since 2002. The law’s simple requirement that schools make public their reading and math test results and show disparities among different groups of students has changed the way educators and parents view their school systems.

The civil-rights community cheers the requirement that schools must report test data for girls, boys, Caucasians, Latinos, African-Americans, special-needs students, low-income children, and English-language learners. The No Child Left Behind Act is the current reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first enacted in 1965 and reauthorized every five years. The disaggregation mandate by itself underscores the original law’s core purpose as a civil-rights law. “The law has also brought to light rampant education disparities for students of color, students living in poverty, English-language learners, and students with disabilities,” a coalition of civil-rights groups declared in an April letter to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“We’ve never had this attention to student achievement during the whole history of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” said Sandy Kress, the senior education adviser in the Bush administration who helped write the law and is now a lawyer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

(Mixed results) RESEARCH AND DATA
Data Use Is Up; Results Are Unclear

The law’s authors wanted schools and states to base their curricula and teaching policies on scientifically proven methods. After all, the ultimate aim of school assessments is to replicate the techniques that work and junk the ones that don’t.

Schools’ use of data is varied, but all of them know more now than they did 10 years ago about how to administer standardized tests and analyze that data in their schools. The Education Department’s Institute of Education Sciences, created after No Child Left Behind, supports and disseminates research on education practices and publicizes statistics on the condition of education in the United States. The institute has significantly boosted the availability of data on student outcomes.

So we know more about what’s happening in schools, but we don’t necessarily know how to fix the lingering problems. Or, if we do know how, we aren’t willing. “This is not something that can be mandated by law,” said Barone, of the Democrats for Education Reform. “Regrettably, what we have now are too many state and local policymakers who are either disinclined or unable … to let research and data drive the continuous improvements that are needed to transform our education systems.”

(Failure) SCHOOL CHOICE
Options Are Limited or Nonexistent

For the conservatives who helped write No Child Left Behind, the prospect of enhanced school choice was an essential element. Bona fide choices for families would ensure that the government-run school system would be forced to answer to community and neighborhood concerns, they believed. Families would keep the government in check. “There must be a moment in which parents can say, ‘I’ve had enough of this school,’ ” Bush said when he signed the bill.

That moment has yet to come. The logistical difficulties of offering students at failing schools a chance to move to a better place have ensured that the “choice” mandated by law exists on paper only.

The number of charter schools has ticked up, and some systems try to provide parents more flexibility. But demand invariably exceeds availability, and school districts that engage in other turnaround activities can get waivers from the flexible-enrollment mandates to sidestep school-choice requirements. “Choice and supplemental services should never have been left in the hands of districts,” said Kress, the White House education specialist under Bush.

“WE’VE COME LIGHT-YEARS”

To appreciate the philosophical shift that No Child Left Behind achieved, it is useful to step back and look at where the education debate was before. In the 1980s and ’90s, policymakers were fully aware that American students were falling behind in the global marketplace. But the policy negotiations were stubbornly mired in how states should distribute school resources. Then, as now, states sought waivers from requirements about where their federal dollars should go. Testing was all over the place. Curriculum was haphazard.

After No Child Left Behind mandated that school systems test 95 percent of public-school students and publicize the results, the harsh, new light revealed the breadth and depth of the nation’s education problems.

“No Child Left Behind established unrealistic targets [and] failed to provide schools with resources to meet those targets.” —Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association

“People were stunned at the test scores,” Miller said. “We took a snapshot of schools all across the country and said, ‘This is what it looks like. Six percent of these kids are reading at grade level; 50 percent of kids are being taught by a qualified teacher under this stupid little definition we have.’ They went, ‘What the hell is going on in this school?’ That’s now a discussion over ongoing professional development of teachers and ongoing evaluation of teachers and administrators. We’ve come light-years, and that’s a given. It’s resisted. But it’s a given.”

Ten years ago, policymakers wanted to put schools on the hook for results, any results. “You do what you do based on what you know at the time,” Spellings said. “And when you know more, you change it.”

We definitely know more. The education conversation currently revolves around defining K-12 academic benchmarks, agreeing on how to measure them, and deciding who the judges should be. That discussion may be the best testament to the impact of No Child Left Behind.

“My law has accomplished all that it can accomplish. I’m very proud of it. It’s done,” Miller said. “Hello, America—it’s time for the next iteration. But don’t lose your focus.”

Congress is ignoring Miller’s plea. The Senate’s current reauthorization proposal, which is four years overdue, does not spell out what will happen to schools that don’t measure up. (Probably nothing, some education-reform advocates grumble.) No one questioned, though, that the Senate rewrite would maintain the law’s once-controversial requirement that annual reports be broken down by race, gender, poverty level, and disability.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is sponsoring the No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill. “We must be willing to shift to new approaches when the old ones aren’t working,” he said in a floor speech defending the measure.

In response to NJ’s request, Harkin said this of No Child Left Behind: “One-size-fits-all sanctions and the 2014 deadline for 100 percent proficiency, though well-intentioned, have proven to be ineffective.”

Like most education policymakers, he wants to rectify the unfair benchmarks that measure schools. His bill simply gets rid of them, raising the hackles of No Child Left Behind supporters. But Harkin has no choice if he wants the measure to go anywhere. To win support from Enzi, the Education Committee’s chief Republican, Harkin was forced to abandon any achievement targets. As currently written, the bill would subject schools to benchmarks with no teeth.

Harkin’s bill stands to get even weaker in the current political climate. Only three committee Republicans grudgingly supported it, and a Senate floor vote has been delayed indefinitely. Even though the bill greatly weakens the massive federal oversight of states, Republicans think it is still too invasive.

House Republicans, for their part, aren’t willing to put together a large rewrite of No Child Left Behind, preferring to nick away at it with smaller, incremental measures. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is keen on local control for schools. He has pushed a charter-school bill and a federal funding flexibility measure to accomplish that. “We need to place more emphasis on the progress being made at the state and local levels,” Kline said.

Supporters of Harkin’s efforts say that times have changed since No Child Left Behind was passed and that his approach just recognizes a new era for education. Concrete benchmarks, if they worked at all, are no longer needed, these experts say. States have made significant progress in how they assess schools, and they all are moving toward the Common Core state standards.

Those standards have the benefit of being generated outside of Washington as a consensus document from multiple stakeholders. They suffer from being more complex and far-reaching than the simple grade-level reading and math requirements of No Child Left Behind. They are akin to a five-star restaurant being offered as a replacement for a fast-food burger joint.

Still, the Common Core effort reinserts the “state laboratory” element to public education that some fault No Child Left Behind for squelching. “It gives us a formula for a different kind of accountability,” said Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers who helped to craft the Common Core standards.

Wilhoit characterizes No Child Left Behind as a necessary wake-up call to the states to raise their game on education. And now, he says, the law “has run its course.”

_________________________

The Judges

NJ consulted the following experts in assessing No Child Left Behind:

THE AUTHORS

• Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., a lead cosponsor
• House Speaker John Boehner, a lead cosponsor
• Sandy Kress, lead White House negotiator
• Margaret Spellings, former Education secretary

THE REAUTHORIZERS

• Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman, House Education and the Workforce Committee
• Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
• Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking member, HELP Committee

THE PRACTITIONERS

• Dan Domenech, executive director, American Association of School Administrators
• Gene Wilhoit, executive director,Council of Chief State School Officers
• National School Boards Association

THE ADVOCATES

• American Civil Liberties Union
• Patrick Riccards, CEO of ConnCan
• Kati Haycock, president, Education Trust
• Charles Barone, federal policy director, Democrats for Education Reform
• Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association
• Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers

THE ACADEMICS

• Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies, American Enterprise Institute
• Richard Rothstein, education research associate, Economic Policy Institute
• Thomas Toch, education journalist and cofounder of the Education Sector
• Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado (Boulder)
• Sherman Dorn, education professor, University of South Florida

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