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The Politics of No Child Left Behind

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law. The President declared, "as of this hour, America's schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results." NCLB brought sweeping changes to the 37-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and thrust the nation's educators, schools, and school districts into a new world of federal educational leadership.

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law. The President declared, "as of this hour, America's schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results." NCLB brought sweeping changes to the 37-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and thrust the nation's educators, schools, and school districts into a new world of federal educational leadership.

Some critics, especially educators, have long disputed the validity of the Washington consensus and are skeptical of NCLB's expectations and its assumptions regarding school improvement. In early 2005, Nel Noddings, the president of the National Academy of Education and a faculty member at Columbia University's Teachers College, penned a very public attack on No Child Left Behind in the pages of Education Week. In many ways, Noddings's essay summarized the complaints voiced by the law's critics. Noddings wrote, "My thesis is simple: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bad law, and a bad law is not made better by fully funding it." She explained, "The law employs a view of motivation that many of us in education find objectionable. As educators, we would not use threats, punishments, and pernicious comparisons to -'motivate' our students. But that is how the No Child Left Behind law treats the school establishment."

This article, written by Frederick M. Hess and Michael J. Petrilli, appeared in the June 19th, 2006 publication of The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Published Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2006

The Politics of No Child Left Behind

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law. The President declared, "as of this hour, America's schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results." NCLB brought sweeping changes to the 37-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and thrust the nation's educators, schools, and school districts into a new world of federal educational leadership.

Some critics, especially educators, have long disputed the validity of the Washington consensus and are skeptical of NCLB's expectations and its assumptions regarding school improvement. In early 2005, Nel Noddings, the president of the National Academy of Education and a faculty member at Columbia University's Teachers College, penned a very public attack on No Child Left Behind in the pages of Education Week. In many ways, Noddings's essay summarized the complaints voiced by the law's critics. Noddings wrote, "My thesis is simple: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bad law, and a bad law is not made better by fully funding it." She explained, "The law employs a view of motivation that many of us in education find objectionable. As educators, we would not use threats, punishments, and pernicious comparisons to -'motivate' our students. But that is how the No Child Left Behind law treats the school establishment."

This article, written by Frederick M. Hess and Michael J. Petrilli, appeared in the June 19th, 2006 publication of The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

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