When the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) became law, it brought with it fundamental changes in the relationships between local school districts and the federal government. Because the law so incontrovertibly linked federal dollars with education results, it led to new accountability requirements that – like it or not – have changed the business of education in American public schools in consequential ways.
In light of such broad-based changes, it came as little surprise to most observers that NCLB proved so controversial. The law’s framers and federal stewards acknowledge that it has produced some “unintended consequences.” On the other hand, its loudest critics, including state lawmakers and education interest groups, have called for either repealing (or opting out of) the law or changing its accountability provisions beyond recognition.
But other, often quieter, voices have begun to recognize recent trends and developments and come forward to suggest practical ways the law could be improved. The 8 essays that follow express valuable, diverse viewpoints from the frontlines of American education. The authors – including a California school superintendent, a public elementary school principal in Chicago, the CEO of The Princeton Review, and a tutoring provider who specializes in serving English Language Learners – do not agree about all aspects of the law. But they do believe their suggestions will make the law more effective.
Among their ideas:
- Revise the formulas for determining starting points for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures for the law’s subgroups.
- Institute better monitoring of Supplemental Education Services (SES) tutoring providers to ensure that they deliver promised academic results.
- Designate third parties to administer the 20 percent set-asides required for some school districts for SES tutoring and public school choice, rather than continuing to allow districts to administer these funds themselves.
- NCLB’s teacher quality provisions should provide broader latitude to states in determining qualifications for teachers working in innovative charter and other public schools and programs.
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