No Child Left Behind celebrates 10th anniversary

The Federal law No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, has been controversial from the day it was enacted.  Although it received overwhelming, bipartisan support in congress, schools have found the mandates coming out of it frustrating and expensive.

The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools.  The idea is that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual student performance.

There are all kinds of individual provisions within the act that we can get into if anyone is interested; but right now, what I found relevant was an analysis by Michael Petrilli, an education analyst and vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, published by EducationNext.

In the article, Mr. Petrilli argues that NCLB worked at the beginning, with our historically lowest-achieving populations seeing huge gains.  However, he continues, the program plateaued, as most do, with those gains becoming very small today.  In addition, he talks about trade-offs between lower-achieving and higher-achieving students; and math and reading versus science & social studies.

He wraps up with the statement that it’s now time for something new.  But what is it?  He talks about individual (versus “school”) accountability; balancing “tough love” with the “helping hand;” and the promise of digital learning.

His final question:  what’s the most appropriate role for the federal government in all this?

This is an interesting perspective on NCLB and raises some good questions for anyone interested in where education is headed in the near future.

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