Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization
Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas
Chapter One: NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from This Policy Failure?
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NCLB’s Lost Decade FOR Educational Progress
What Can We Learn from This Policy Failure?1
LISA GUISBOND WITH MONTY NEILL AND BOB SCHAEFFER
In 2001, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, making it the educational law of the land for 15 years. During that time, it earned a reputation for failure and became widely reviled by educators, parents and independent researchers. Then, in December 2015, Congress passed and President Obama signed a new version of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” The new law removes some, but not all, of NCLB’s damaging provisions, creating both opportunities and dangers for a growing test reform movement.
A review of the evidence demonstrates that NCLB failed badly both in terms of its own goals and more broadly. It neither significantly increased academic performance nor significantly reduced achievement gaps, even as measured by standardized exams.2 In fact, because of its misguided reliance on one-size-fits-all testing, as well as labeling and sanctioning schools, it undermined positive education reform efforts. Many schools, particularly those serving low-income students, have become little more than test-preparation programs.
ESSA, though flawed in numerous serious ways, improves on current federal testing policy, particularly for accountability. The unrealistic “Adequate Yearly Progress” annual test score gain requirement is gone, as are all the specific punitive sanctions imposed on schools and teachers....
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