No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

bridges vol. 15, September 2007 / Bills in Brief: S&T Policy News

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is a federal law that was enacted in 2002. The law was designed with the intent to raise the standards of the education system by increasing accountability and standards of states, school districts, and schools. Additionally, it promoted an increased focus on reading and math, qualified teachers, and a transparent school system.

The effectiveness of NCLB's measures continues to undergo debate and the Congress is now in the midst of discussing the NCLB law, up for a possible reauthorization in September 2007.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Members of the House of Representatives have already started considering major revisions. Congressman George Miller , who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee and is a coauthor of the current law, expects the House to vote in September 2007 to renew the law, but only with extensive changes.

The aim of the bill is to provide more fairness and flexibility (regarding the access to broad education for children with a foreign mother language or from poor circumstances), to raise the graduation rates in high schools, and to invest more in the vocational training for teachers (to close the teacher quality gap and to provide more highly trained teachers for children who are not English native speakers). The legislation will continue to hold schools accountable for students' progress but with an improved accountability system that allows states much greater freedom from the NCLB's controls.

However, critics argue that the NCLB Act does not improve academic achievement, as it fails to give parents the choice of which school their children attend and it constrains effective reforms, while costing taxpayers billions of dollars each year. According to new Cato Institute Study documents, no significant improvement has been achieved and the legislation is divided against itself: The NCLB Act requires states to establish standards and tests (in reading, math, and science) and it requires all schools to make annual progress toward 100 percent reading and math proficiency by 2014. But to preserve local control, it allows states to set their own standards ("adequate yearly progress"), goals, and definitions of proficiency. As a result, states have set low standards. The currently discussed proposal for reauthorizing NCLB does not address the major problem of NCLB: the question of accountability.

Currently, two new bills, called A-Plus Act in the House (HR 1539 ) and in the Senate (S 893 ) are going to fight against the reauthorization of the NCLB Act. The major aim of the bills, which are in the first stage of the legislation process, is to allow states to regain control over certain funds in the educational sector. Yet another bill, which was introduced by Congressman Scott Garrett , leans away from the reauthorization of the NCLB Act: The HR 3177 LEARN (Local Education Authority Returns Now) Act. The aim of this bill is to turn education authority back to local communities and away from federal government control. It allows states to opt out of the NCLB and gives federal education money directly back to state citizens in the form of tax credits.

Information on the NCLB Act can be found at:

Web site of Congressman George Miller:

Web site of Congressman Scott Garrett:

Policy Studies from the Cato Institute regarding the NCLB Act:
Neal McCluskey and Andrew J. Coulson. "End It, Don't Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind."

Lawrence A. Uzzel. "No Child Left Behind: The Dangers of Centralized Education Policy."