Kevin Carey has a really nice and succinct look at what NCLB has and has not accomplished over the past decade. I found his summary of the law’s successes to be the most interesting:
IN THE END, No Child Left Behind didn’t usher in a new era of educational opportunity for disadvantaged children. But the law still has a legacy. It has exposed truths about the illogic and injustice of American public education that can’t be ignored.
The simple act of publishing annual test scores “disaggregated” by race, ethnicity, language and disability status has proved that discrimination remains deeply embedded in our public education system, and not just in dysfunctional urban schools. So-called “good” school districts still warehouse their “difficult” students in unchallenging courses taught by indifferent teachers. We won’t go back to the time when that kind of malpractice could be plausibly denied.
NCLB’s concessions to federalism—giving states total discretion to set academic standards—exposed the idiocy of allowing 50 state bureaucracies to make independent judgments about the essential math and reading skills all children must learn. The result was a system where far more students were “passing” state tests in Mississippi than in Massachusetts, even though the the NAEP ranks those states last and first, respectively, in student achievement. The body politic has a high but not infinite tolerance for ridiculousness, and so the vast majority of states are now in the process of adopting a single set of Common Core Standards.
The information generated by NCLB’s annual testing regime has also created an empirical foundation for education research that never existed before. New curricula, better teacher training, smaller class sizes, increased funding, revised teacher tenure policies, technology-enabled learning, charter schools—all of these ideas and many others can be evaluated in a way that was never possible before. NCLB’s flawed accountability system didn’t work very well, but the data it created may help identify something better to take its place.
Whole thing is well worth a read.