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Point/Counterpoint /461
Helen F. Ladd
No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2001 reauthorization of the Federal Elementary
and Secondary Education Act, represented a sea change for the federal government’s
role in k-12 education, a function reserved by the U.S. Constitution for the states.
Prior to that year, the federal government had relied primarily on the equal pro-
tection clause of the Constitution to promote educational opportunity for protected
groups and disadvantaged students and had done so in part with Title 1 grants to
schools serving low-income students. Although it accounted for only 1.5 percent
of school budgets in 2000, Title I funding served as the mechanism for the federal
government to use NCLB to put pressure on all individual schools throughout the
country to raise student achievement. While a state could have avoided the pressure
of NCLB by foregoing its share of Title 1 funds, none chose to do so.
Under NCLB, the federal government required all states to test every student
annually in Grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in math and reading and to
set annual achievement goals so that 100 percent of the students would be on track
to achieve proficiency by 2013/2014. Each school was required to make adequate
yearly progress (AYP) toward the proficiency goal and was subject to consequences
if it failed to do so. This AYP requirement applied not only to the average for
all students in the school, but also to subgroups defined by economic, racial, and
disability characteristics. Consistent with our federal system, states were to use
their own tests and to set their own proficiency standards. The act also required
that all teachers of core academic subjects be highly qualified, defined as having a
Bachelor’s degree and subject-specific knowledge.
This bipartisan act represented a response to three types of concerns, starting
with the view, embedded in the standards-based reform movement (O’Day & Smith,
1993) that this country needed higher and more ambitious standards for students
who would be competing in an increasingly global and knowledge-based society.
The other concerns related to purported inefficiencies in the U.S. education system
and concern within the civil rights community about huge disparities in educational
outcomes across groups defined by race or income. I return to these concerns below
with my overall evaluation of NCLB. First, though, I turn to the question of how
NCLB affected student outcomes.
Proponents expected NCLB to boost student achievement overall and to reduce
gaps between disadvantaged student subgroups and their more advantaged coun-
terparts. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred
to as the Nation’s Report Card, provides a natural set of test scores for mea-
suring such outcomes. These tests have been given to nationally representative
random samples of fourth and eighth graders throughout the country since the
early 1990s. NAEP scores are comparable for students across the country, and,
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Figure 1. Trends in NAEP Scores Over Time in Fourth and Eighth Grades.
unlike high stakes tests at the state level, are not susceptible to teaching to the
Figure 1 documents the trends in 4th- and 8th-grade test scores in math and
reading over time. The dashed vertical line denotes the year NCLB was adopted.
Although both 4th- and 8th-grade math test scores rose in the post-NCLB period
(until 2015), for the most part they simply continued the upward trend that had
begun in the 1990s. Moreover, reading scores declined in the first few years of the
post-NCLB period. Thus, these trends provide little or no support for the hypothesis
that NCLB raised test scores.
Of course, these trends alone do not account for what would have happened in the
absence of NCLB. Moreover, since it applied to all schools throughout the country
and was introduced at a single point in time, there is no obvious control group to
which one can compare the outcomes for those subject to NCLB. Different groups
of researchers have used a variety of methods to explore the causal impacts.
The best-known studies are by Dee and Jacob (2010, 2011). To isolate the causal
effects of NCLB, they make use of the fact that some states had introduced their
own accountability systems in various years prior to the introduction of the national
program. They view states that had no prior accountability system as the group that
was treated by the federal law, with the others serving as the control group. The
authors then estimate interrupted time series models that allow them to test for
changes in the trend in the treated states in the post-NCLB period.2
1NAEP scores come in two forms, the long-term trends data for which students are sampled at ages
9, 13, and 17, and Main NAEP for which students are sampled in fourth and eighth grades. I use Main
NAEP here.
2The authors also report models in which they use Catholic schools, which were not subject to the NCLB
requirements, as the control group but those results are less persuasive because of big declines in the
number of Catholic schools during the relevant period.
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Point/Counterpoint /463
From these analyses, they conclude that NCLB led to a moderate and sta-
tistically significant increase in test scores in math for 4th-grade students and
a positive, but not statistically significant, increase for eighth graders in math,
with no effects on reading scores for students in either grade. Additional anal-
ysis for 4th-grade math scores shows that the effects were largest at the bot-
tom of the test score distribution, suggesting that NCLB was most effective in
improving basic skills. They also find some positive effects by subgroup. Re-
porting results only for math test scores, the authors find moderately large pos-
itive effects for blacks in 4th-grade math, and positive effects in both grades
for Hispanics and students from low-income families (Dee & Jacob, 2010,
Table 2).
Despite the high quality of the Dee and Jacob research, they may have overstated
the positive impact on 4th-grade math scores. It seems odd, for example, that the
biggest test score gains in 4th-grade math show up in the NAEP scores of 2003, the
first year of NCLB. Given the challenges of implementing a new program and the
fact that education is a cumulative process, with outcomes in Grade 4 dependent in
part on prior year achievement, any gains in 2003 seems far too early to attribute to
NCLB. Not surprisingly, if that year is eliminated from the Dee and Jacob’s empirical
analysis, the finding of a statistically significant effect in 4th-grade scores disappears
(Ladd, 2010).
Other researchers come to quite similar conclusions. Building on the Dee and
Jacob methodology, but with attention to the fidelity with which NCLB was im-
plemented by individual states, Lee and Reaves (2012) find no significant effects
that can be attributed to the law on either overall achievement in reading or math
or on achievement gaps. Using a very different approach that focuses on the pres-
sure schools face when they are in danger of failing and measuring achievement by
low stakes test results from national ECLS surveys rather than the NAEP, Reback,
Rockoff, and Schwartz (2014) find small positive effects in reading scores, but no
statistically significant effects on math or science scores during the first 2 years of
The overall test score effects of NCLB are clearly disappointing. Moreover, its
positive effects on certain subgroups in some grades and subjects were far from
sufficient to move the needle much on test score gaps. Such gaps in NAEP scores
remained high in 2015.
Although NCLB included some components that generated positive, if qualified,
effects, my overall conclusion is that NCLB was deeply flawed.
Positive Components
Perhaps the most positive aspect of NCLB is that it generated huge amounts of data
on student achievement in math and reading. The availability of rich data on all
tested students, not just samples of students, has been a bonanza for educational
researchers and policymakers alike. It is hard to overstate the significance for re-
searchers in specific states of having test score data for all tested students that can
be matched over time to other educational data on teachers and schools and that
can be matched in some states to other large data sets such as those on vital statis-
tics, higher education, and labor market outcomes. Researchers connected with the
Center for the Analysis of Data in Education Research (CALDER), for example,
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have used such data from several states to generate about 170 papers since 2006
A second positive component of NCLB, especially in the eyes of civil rights groups,
is that schools are held accountable not only for the aggregate test scores of their
students but also for the average test scores of subgroups of students whom they
might otherwise ignore. One possible problem, though, is that individual schools
may not be the appropriate unit of accountability for subgroup performance. Stu-
dents in the designated categories can still be ignored when there are too few of
them in individual schools. Moreover, individual schools have fewer policy levers
for improving the performance of subgroups than policymakers at the district level
who set the rules under which students and teachers are allocated among schools
and make decisions about the resources available to individual schools. Hence, ac-
countability for the performance of subgroups may be better placed at the district
A third arguably positive element of NCLB was its requirement that all teachers
be “highly qualified.” Although many states initially dealt with this requirement by
developing their own measures of quality, by 2006 all states had official requirements
for teacher quality that complied with the law, and 88 percent of school districts
reported that all teachers of core subjects would be “highly qualified” as defined
by NCLB (Jennings & Rentner, 2006). The provision appears to have provided a
floor on teacher quality by contributing to a dramatic reduction in the reliance
on uncertified teachers (Loeb & Miller, 2006). Although not required by the act,
NCLB apparently led to a higher proportion of teachers with Master’s degrees (Dee
& Jacob, 2010). Debate remains, however, about the usefulness of Master’s degrees,
especially those attained after a teacher enters the profession (Ladd & Sorensen,
Flaws of NCLB
Despite these positive elements, the law’s use of top-down accountability pressure
that was more punitive than constructive represents a flawed approach to school
improvement. Three specific flaws deserve attention.
Its Narrow Focus
An initial problem with the test-based accountability of NCLB is that it is based
on too narrow a view of schooling. Most people would agree that aspirations for
education and schooling should be far broader than teaching children how to do
well on multiple-choice tests. A broader view would recognize the role that schools
play in developing in children the knowledge and skills that will enable them not
merely to succeed in the labor market but to be good citizens, to live rich and
fulfilling lives, and to contribute to the flourishing of others (Brighouse et al.,
Research both on NCLB, as well as some of the state-specific accountability
programs that preceded it, has shown it has narrowed the curriculum by shift-
ing instruction time toward tested subjects and away from others. A nationally
3A possible downside of the availability of such data, however, is the subsequent federal requirement
that states evaluate teachers based on the test scores of their students. I do not address and evaluate test-
based accountability of teachers here because it would take me beyond the basic provisions of NCLB. The
federal requirement for test-based evaluation of teachers was embodied in the Race to the Top program
and in the waiver process described below and not in NCLB itself. See Baker et al. (2010) for a critical
analysis of test-based evaluation of teachers.
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representative survey of 349 school districts between 2001 and 2007 shows that
schools raised instructional time (measured in minutes per week) in English and
math quite significantly while reducing time for social studies, science, art and mu-
sic, physical education, and recess (McMurrer, 2007; also see National Surveys by
the Center on Education Policy; Byrd-Blake et al., 2010; Dee & Jacob, 2010; Griffith
& Scharmann, 2008). This narrowing of the curriculum undermines the potential
for schools to promote other valued capacities, such as those for democratic com-
petence or personal fulfillment.
Further, NCLB has led to a narrowing of what happens within the math and
reading instructional programs themselves. That occurs in part because of the heavy
reliance on multiple-choice tests that are cheaper and quicker to grade than open-
ended questions that would better test conceptual understanding and writing skills.
In addition, test-based accountability gives teachers incentives to “teach to the test”
rather than to the broader domains that the test questions are designed to represent.
Evidence of teaching to the test emerges from the differences in student test scores
on the specific high stakes tests used by states as part of their accountability systems,
and test scores on the NAEP, which is not subject to this problem (see Klein et al.,
2000, for a comparison of Texas test scores on NAEP and the Texas high stakes
NCLB also encouraged teachers to narrow the groups of students they attend
to. Various studies document, for example, that the incentive for teachers to focus
attention on students near the proficiency cut point has led to reductions in the
achievement of students in the tails of the ability distribution (Krieg, 2008; Ladd &
Lauen, 2010; Neal & Schanzenbach, 2010).
Unrealistic and Counter-Productive Expectations
A second flaw is that NCLB was highly unrealistic and misguided in its ex-
pectations. Even if we set aside its 100 percent proficiency goal as aspirational
rhetoric, the program imposed counter-productive expectations in a variety of
Recall that one of the goals of NCLB was to raise academic standards through-
out the country. Given that the U.S. lodges responsibility for education at the
state level, federal policymakers had to permit individual states to set their own
proficiency standards. The accountability provisions of the law meant, however,
that if a state chose to raise its standards without providing the additional re-
sources and support needed to meet those standards, the result would be greater
numbers of failing schools. Hence, it is not surprising that instead of states rais-
ing their proficiency standards, some states reduced them. Among the 12 states
for which they had data starting in 2002/2003, Cronin et al. (2007) found that
seven had lowered their proficiency standards by 2006 and declines were largest
in states that had the highest initial proficiency standards. The authors also found
a huge amount of variance between states in the difficulty of their proficiency
The program was unrealistic as well in that many schools simply could not
meet the requirements of AYP and hence were named and shamed as failures and
made subject to sanctions. This requirement differed across schools and states
depending on the state’s proficiency standards and the timetable it set out for
the schools to meet the goal by 2013/2014. In many cases, states defined the
time path so that it would be more feasible to meet in the early years than
in the later years. The net effect was a rising failure rate over time. By 2011,
close to half of all schools in the country were failing, with the rates well over
50 percent in some (Usher, 2015). Something is clearly amiss when half of the
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objects of accountability, in this case individual schools, are not in a position to
With Congress not able to reach consensus on how to modify or update ESEA
between 2007 and 2015, the requirements of NCLB remained in force, leading to
the untenable situation in which most schools would eventually be failing. To avoid
this situation, the Obama administration intervened in 2011 by offering waivers
from certain requirements of NCLB to states that requested them. A key element
of the waiver agreements was a shift of focus of accountability away from test
score levels to a greater focus on the growth in student test scores or progress in
reducing achievement gaps. While this shift represents a sensible change, it did little
to counter the narrow focus and top-down nature of NCLB. By 2015, 43 states had
received waivers from the most stringent provisions of NCLB (Polikoff et al., 2015).
Although the waivers were necessary to stop the rise of school failures, the fact that
the Obama administration had to work outside the Congress is another undesirable
outcome in that it sets a bad precedent for future policymaking.
A final counterproductive effect of NCLB has been its adverse effect on teacher
morale and the harm it could be doing to the teaching profession. Although re-
searchers and policymakers frequently point to teachers as the most important
school factor for student achievement, evidence shows that NCLB has reduced
the morale of teachers, especially those in high poverty schools (Byde-Blake et al.,
2010). Further, clear evidence of cheating by teachers in some large cities, including
Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, DC, even if limited to small numbers of teach-
ers, indicates the magnitude of the pressures facing some teachers under high stakes
accountability of the type imposed by NCLB. Low teacher morale matters in part
because it may well increase teacher attrition. Although we do not have much di-
rect evidence on how NCLB affects attrition, we do know that the approximately
8 percent attrition rate of teachers in the United States is far higher than that
in many other countries (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016) and
that reducing the rate would substantially mitigate concerns about projected teacher
shortages and the costs of teacher turnover.
Pressure without Support
A third major flaw is that NCLB placed significant pressure on individual schools
to raise student achievement without providing the support needed to assure that
all students had an opportunity to learn to the higher standards. In this way, NCLB
included only one part of what the standards-based reformers had initially intended
to be a much more comprehensive package. That package would have started with
high and ambitious standards for students but would have paid attention to the
capacity of teachers to deliver an ambitious curriculum and to the availability of
the resources required to assure that all children had an opportunity to learn to the
high standards.
NCLB relied instead almost exclusively on tough test-based incentives. This ap-
proach would only have made sense if the problem of low-performing schools could
be attributed primarily to teacher shirking, as some people believed, or to the prob-
lem of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” as suggested by President George W.
Bush. But in fact low achievement in such schools is far more likely to reflect the
limited capacity of such schools to meet the challenges that children from disad-
vantaged backgrounds bring to the classroom. Because of these challenges, schools
4As I have suggested elsewhere, however, failing schools might have been the intended goal for some pol-
icymakers who hoped that school failure would promote their desired goal of greater school privatization
(Ladd, 2012).
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serving concentrations of low-income students face greater tasks than those serving
middle class students. The NCLB approach of holding schools alone responsible for
student test score levels while paying little if any attention to the conditions in which
learning takes place is simply not fair either to the schools or the children and was
bound to be unsuccessful.
To be sure, districts or states could have responded by providing more support
services. In fact, under NCLB when a school failed to meet AYP 2 years in a row,
the district was required to pay for supplementary services for the school’s students.
But studies show that such services were generally of low quality, and were not
extensively used (Heinrich, Meyer, & Whitten, 2010; Mu ˜
noz, Potter, & Ross, 2008).
In addition, state governments could have responded to the federal policy by devel-
oping the capacities of their school systems, and some did to a limited extent. The
study by Dee and Jacob mentioned earlier found that states responded to NCLB
by increasing per pupil spending by $570 dollars per pupil, with this investment
coming in a combination of increases in teacher salaries and other non-teacher in-
vestments (Dee & Jacob, 2010). Importantly, though, the authors found no evidence
of an increase in federal funding for education.
Far more resources and attention to capacity building would have been helpful
for many of the low-performing schools. But more generally a “broader and bolder”
approach to education, one that addresses the challenges that many disadvantaged
children bring to school, was needed. Such an approach would include high-quality
pre-school, better health services, and more high-quality afterschool and summer
programs of the type that children from middle class families take for granted (Ladd,
2012; also see
In December 2015, Congress finally managed to reauthorize the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act and to replace its NCLB requirements with a new set of
provisions, labeled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Under this new law,
states are still required to test all students in math and reading and to disaggregate
results by subgroup (albeit a slightly different set of groups). The main change is
that state governments will have primary responsibility for designing and enforcing
their own accountability systems but will still be subject to some federal regula-
tions. All states, for example, must include a non-test measure of school quality or
student success. The transition to the new state plans is now in progress with full
implementation occurring in the 2017/2018 school year.
It is far too early to predict with any confidence what the states will do and
with what effects. The most plausible prediction at this point is that the variation
across states is likely to be large. That variation will reflect the differing capacities
of State Boards of Education, differing revenue-raising capacities across states, and
differing commitments to the development of comprehensive new systems that build
in support as well as accountability. The federal government will still have a role to
play, but we can only hope that its role will be far more positive and constructive
than it has been under NCLB.
HELEN F. LADD is the Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy and Economics,
Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708 (e-mail:
Corey Vernot of Duke University provided excellent research support for this essay.
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Brian Jacob
When President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in
2002, it marked a historic expansion of the federal government’s role in U.S. educa-
tion policy. NCLB had a broad and deep impact on education policy and practice
throughout the country.
One of the most immediate and visible effects of NCLB was the requirement that
schools administer standardized exams in reading and math in grades 3 to 8. Prior
to the passage of NCLB, testing was often determined at the district level, adminis-
tered in only select grades, and not consistently used by school or district leaders.
The legislation also required states to report student performance for each school
annually, indicating the fraction of students meeting proficiency standards overall
and separately for a variety of subgroups. Mandated subgroups included traditional
race and gender categories, as well as categories for economically disadvantaged,
limited English proficient, and special needs students.
The legislation required schools to increase the fraction of students meeting
proficiency each year in order to attain the goal of 100 percent proficiency by
2014. Schools failing to meet these goals were designated as not making Adequate
Yearly Progress (AYP), and subject to an increasingly severe set of sanctions, which
ranged from the requirement to develop a school improvement plan to a complete
restructuring of the school.1
The underlying rationale for school accountability policies such as NCLB stems
from what economists refer to as a principal-agent problem. The idea is that
1NCLB included several other accountability provisions, including requirements to provide all students
with a “highly qualified” teacher and to allow students in schools failing to meet AYP to obtain supple-
mental education services and exercise school choice. In practice, these provisions had little impact on
schools and quickly disappeared from public discourse.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management DOI: 10.1002/pam
Published on behalf of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management
... However the improvements on international assessments have not reflected the same kind of improvements, including National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (Ladd, 2017). NCLB has had a greater impact on national and international assessments in mathematics than in reading (Dee, 2011). ...
... A point of contention for the researchers has been that each state defines college readiness differently and designs its own accountability assessments. This range of assessments and expectations makes it very difficult to determine the true impact of NCLB on student learning (Dee, 2011;Ladd 2017;Ravitch 2016). The varied state assessments are also calculated differently contributing to concerns about validity of the scores (Brewer, Knoeppel, & Lindle, 2015). ...
... In Kentucky ACT benchmark numbers have been modified to reflect lowered expectations (CPE, 2014), see Table 1 below. Lower expectation serves several functions including keeping more schools from not achieving Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) expectations, reducing the number of schools who are considered persistently low-achieving (Ravitch, 2016;Ladd 2017). In Kentucky students continue to lag behind their national peers on the ACT (see Table 2.. ...
Full-text available
This dissertation addresses measuring institutional rigor through detailed classroom observations, graduation rates that lead to college graduation in Kentucky
... Left Behind (NCLB), "the first major national accountability structure that mandated states to hold school and districts responsible for student achievement" (Wrabel et al., 2018, p. 118;Sunderman & Kim, 2007). Only two-thirds of U.S. states had substantive accountability systems prior to NCLB (Dee & Jacob, 2011;Ladd, 2017). The successor to NCLB, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has enabled states to develop more nuanced accountability systems. ...
... Unions, however, have been more receptive to accountability when funding is attached to reforms, as opposed to increased pressure without increased support (Ladd, 2017;McGuinn, 2012). Irrespective of the type of accountability, public schools in the United States cannot receive increased funding without increased oversight (Mehta, 2013), even if one believes that accountability systems trend towards dysfunction or, as Au (2016) argues, reinforce rather than remediate racial inequality. ...
... The notion that accountability is best for students (see Hanushek, 1986 for one of the first such arguments) has come under increasing fire from multiple studies across a diverse range of methodologies. Ladd (2017) considers accountability policies such as No Child Left Behind to be deeply flawed, as they focus too heavily on gains in short-term academic outcomes (found in studies such as Dee & Jacob, 2011;Dee, Jacob, & Schwartz, 2013;Hanushek & Raymond, 2005). Using even stronger language, Au argues that "high-stakes testing cannot dismantle racial inequality because it fundamentally and materially advances the project of increasing racialized injustice" (2016, p. 41). ...
Education reform rhetoric frequently pits the vested interests of teachers’ unions against those of students and families. To test whether union restrictions are related to student learning, I analyze a unique database of contractual items for the 2016-2017 school year across all 499 Pennsylvania school districts in order to examine a) variation, b) partisan political predictors, and c) relationships to student achievement and graduation rates. I also examine changes in 105 contracts that occurred during the 2015-2016 school year. I depict variation among items using GIS mapping. I use OLS regression, probit regression, and spatial autoregression to examine relationships between contract features and student proficiency and graduation rates. I also use propensity score weighting with generalized boosted models (GBM). After controlling for spatial dependence and district demographics, I find a significant negative relationship between the percentage of registered Republicans in a district and bonuses for teacher graduate credentials. I find a significant and positive relationship between Republican registered voters and math and science proficiency. This relationship diminishes in magnitude for ELA proficiency. I also find a significant positive relationship between average years of teaching experience and ELA proficiency in grades 3-8. Using GBM, I find significant positive estimates (+2%) of teacher qualification indicators on students’ math achievement in grades 3-8, and a significant positive estimate (+2%) between harsh consequences for ELA teachers and student proficiency. I also find a significant positive estimate between higher teacher pay and biology proficiency (+4% for historically disadvantaged students), as well as a significant negative estimate of graduate credential bonuses on graduation rates (-6%). These correlational results suggest that subject-area and grade-level differentiation in contracts – such as higher wages for STEM teachers – might be beneficial. The most effective STEM teachers might be seeking out positions in the best-paying districts with the strongest contracts.
... In educational cultures that prioritize high-stakes exams, assessment often does not simultaneously serve its formative and summative purposes (Ladd, 2017). Grades in this context become the focal interest, at the expense of learning. ...
... Another problem with grades is that the total correct score does not provide a clear indication of how much learning has occurred, but is rather an ordinal and assessment-dependent indicator of performance that artificially ranks students in an undefined unit of usually unstated ranges of uncertainty. As forerunner agents in assessment, teachers are often criticized, blamed, or rewarded based on student and class test scores, despite their lack of access to instructionally relevant formative information (Ladd, 2017;Wilson, 2004Wilson, , 2018. This can have intended and unintended consequences for the teacher, school, and the students. ...
... Historically, information infrastructures bureaucratically impose homogeneous uniformities from the top down and are insensitive to (a) the relational structures through which words acquire general meanings, and (b) the creative improvisations of practitioners adapting to the demands of the lived moment (Scott, 1998). These insensitivities render classroom communities more fragmented and less effective in achieving the desired learning outcomes than they otherwise might be (Ladd, 2017). ...
Because human processes are subtle, complex, and contextualized, computational representations of those processes face highly significant unmet design challenges. Design Thinking (DT) offers a potential new paradigm of creativity and innovation in education capable of effecting meaningful culture change. DT is nonlinear but encompasses elements of empathy, problem definition, ideation, prototyping, and tests that may freely move as needed from and to each other. DT's empathic focus on end users' needs suggests educational measurement's information infrastructures will have to coherently integrate assessment and instruction across multiple levels of complexity in communication. Applying DT reveals the need to attend to previously undeveloped technical issues in communication. Especially important are developmental, horizontal, and vertical forms of coherence, and denotative, metalinguistic, and metacommunicative levels of complexity. New solutions emerge when classrooms are reconceived as meta-design ecosystem niches of creativity and innovation structured from the bottom up by flows of self-organizing information. Recently identified correspondences between educational measurement and metrology support efforts aimed at developing multilevel common languages for the communication of learning outcomes. Prototype reports illustrate how emergent measured constructs can be brought into language in ways that integrate developmental, horizontal, and vertical coherence across levels of complexity. Coherent information infrastructures of these kinds are capable of adapting to new circumstances as populations of persons and items change, doing so without compromising the continuity of comparisons or the uniqueness of locally situated knowledge and practices.
... As experienced educators who believe strongly that teachers must also be public intellectuals, we seek change as we conduct our participatory research in public schools in our community that have evolved top-down Taylorist management systems that have continued to contain and curtail student and teacher voice through federal reports and policy initiatives, especially the 1981 Nation at Risk Report, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the more recent 2015 Every Student Succeeds reauthorization (Shosh, 2017;Kamenetz, 2018;Ladd, 2018;Sunderman, Tracey, Kim, & Orfield, 2004, i-Ready, 2016. ...
... Problems associated with this kind of cross-level fallacy also have been observed in recent years as a consequence of the No Child Left Behind education act in the United States. [52]. These problems can potentially be rectified by closely attending to how things come into words. ...
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As part of his explication of the epistemological error made in separating thinking from its ecological context, Bateson distinguished counts from measurements. With no reference to Bateson, the measurement theory and practice of BenjaminWright also recognizes that number and quantity are different logical types. Describing the confusion of counts and measures as schizophrenic, like Bateson,Wright, a physicist and certified psychoanalyst, showed mathematically that convergent stochastic processes informing counts are predictable in ways that facilitate methodical measurements. Wright’s methods experimentally evaluate the complex symmetries of nonlinear and stochastic numeric patterns as a basis for estimating interval quantities. These methods also retain connections with locally situated concrete expressions, mediating the data display by contextualizing it in relation to the abstractly communicable and navigable quantitative unit and its uncertainty. Decades of successful use ofWright’s methods in research and practice are augmented in recent collaborations of metrology engineers and psychometricians who are systematically distinguishing numeric counts from measured quantities in new classes of knowledge infrastructure. Situating Wright’s work in the context of Bateson’s ideas may be useful for infrastructuring new political, economic, and scientific outcomes.
... Elsewhere (Smith & Peck, 2002b), where discussing Dynarski et al.'s (2001) evaluation of 21 st Century Community Learning Center programs, we provide a more detailed discussion of positivist "methodolatry" (Daly, 1973;Pepper, 1942) and the neglect of the full range of children's mental skills. In short, evidence of the systemic disregard of how teachers and students feel about the conditions of learning is reflected in the ample literature documenting and condemning the failed "No Child Left Behind" accountability policy (Cohen, 2006;Ho, 2008;Husband & Hunt, 2015;Ladd, 2017). ...
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The Q-ODM toolbox addresses practical questions about SEL skills and skill growth, such as: What is high-quality SEL support? How much SEL skill change does our program cause in each cycle? How much program quality does it take for stressed children to fully engage? Does our work create equity effects? The tools are divided into three groups: Design Tools, Analytic Tools, and Feedback Tools. The tools are designed to empower internal and local evaluators to conduct rigorous and meaningful impact evaluations using existing resources (e.g., while they are implementing their current CQI systems).
... Signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015, ESSA is the leading federal law governing public education in prekindergarten through high school. ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, thus alleviating significant implementation challenges for education systems (Ladd, 2017;No Child Left Behind, 2001). ESSA is also the most recent reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965). ...
Purpose Public policies can influence how speech-language pathologists (SLPs) provide services to students with disabilities. Specifically, this article is intended to provide background information and critical analysis regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as it relates to speech-language pathology practice and provision of services to students with disabilities within the schools. Method The authors reviewed legislation text, publications from national education and speech and language organizations, and critical educational policy and research articles to examine the role that SLPs can play in the implementation of ESSA for students with disabilities. Results SLPs and other education professionals utilize ESSA to improve access to a well-rounded, college- and career-focused education for all students. ESSA state plans may not fully maximize equal opportunities for students with disabilities. There are additional ways that SLPs can capitalize on ESSA to expand and improve their service provision to students with disabilities, including SLPs broadening their understanding of the role ESSA plays in facilitating positive practices for students with and without disabilities. Conclusions SLPs, teachers, and other stakeholders can improve the impact of ESSA on students with disabilities by helping to improve accountability systems for the educational outcomes of students with disabilities, supporting funding allocation for students with disabilities and struggling learners in the general education setting, and assisting local education agencies to better align ESSA with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
... Education is rife with buzzwords representing trends driven by socio-political forces; these words become labels ascribed to reform initiatives. Accountability is one such buzzword emerging in the wake of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to explain changes in curriculum, instructional practices, and test preparation initiatives (Ladd, 2017). However, accountability did little to fulfill the promise of NCLB: elimination of the education debt created by systems that oppress rather than emancipate (Ladson-Billings, 2006). ...
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Teachers need the knowledge and dispositions to identify and dismantle barriers contributing to persistent educational inequity. This work begins by centering equity in teacher education with a focus on developing teachers’ critical consciousness of the systems of power and privilege in educational institutions. Utilizing equity-focused instruction and coaching, this study explored the development of preservice teachers’ Equity Consciousness and Equity Literacy knowledge and dispositions during a teaching-coaching-reflection transformative learning experience. Participants demonstrated increased Equity Consciousness and Equity Literacy, recognizing their assumptions about learners’ lived experiences and the funds of knowledge students bring to the learning environment. Findings from this empirical study indicate this approach contributes to the development of the equity-based dispositions essential to dismantling current educational barriers and replacing them with inclusive and empowering instructional practices.
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This article articulates a framework suitable for use when making decisions about education policy. Decision makers should establish what the feasible options are and evaluate them in terms of their contribution to the development, and distribution, of educational goods in children, balanced against the negative effect of policies on important independent values. The article articulates a theory of educational goods by reference to six capacities that children should develop – economic productivity, autonomy, democratic competence, healthy personal relationships, treating others as equals, and personal fulfillment. It demarcates three distributive values – adequacy, equality, and benefitting the less advantaged. And it distinguishes several independent values – childhood goods, parents’ interests, respect for democratic processes, and freedom of residence and occupation.
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A balanced view of the effects on students, teachers, and schools of the controversial federal law: the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
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We conduct the first nationwide study of incentives under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which requires states to punish schools failing to meet target passing rates on students' standardized exams. States' idiosyncratic policies created variation in the risk of failure among very similar schools in different states, which we use to identify effects of accountability pressure. We find NCLB lowers teachers' perceptions of job security, shifts time towards specialist teachers in high-stakes subjects and away from whole-class instruction, and has positive or neutral effects on students' enjoyment of learning and achievement in reading, math, and science.
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This study examines the impact of high-stakes school accountability, capacity, and resources under NCLB on reading and math achievement outcomes through comparative interrupted time-series analyses of 1990–2009 NAEP state assessment data. Through hierarchical linear modeling latent variable regression with inverse probability of treatment weighting, the study addresses pre-NCLB differences in state characteristics and trends to account for variations in post-NCLB gains. While the states’ progress was uneven among different grades, subjects, and subgroups, NCLB did not yet evidence sustainable and generalizable high-stakes accountability policy effects. Improving average achievement as well as narrowing achievement gaps was associated with long-term statewide instructional capacity and teacher resources rather than short-term NCLB implementation fidelity, rigor of standards, and state agency’s capacity for data tracking and intervention.
This study tested how well Fishbein and Ajzen’s Theory of Reasoned Action predicted the attitudes and morale of urban teachers in high poverty schools under the pressures of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB forced local administrators to target schools that had not made adequately yearly progress (AYP) for two or more consecutive years. Teachers from 4 schools in an urban school district in Southern Illinois were surveyed under the scope of the theory of reasoned action. Quantitative and qualitative results were analyzed to determine that the pressure of NCLB adversely affected teachers’ morale.
Current U.S. policy initiatives to improve the U.S. education system, including No Child Left Behind, test-based evaluation of teachers, and the promotion of competition are misguided because they either deny or set to the side a basic body of evidence documenting that students from disadvantaged households on average perform less well in school than those from more advantaged families. Because these policy initiatives do not directly address the educational challenges experienced by disadvantaged students, they have contributed little—and are not likely to contribute much in the future—to raising overall student achievement or to reducing achievement and educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Moreover, such policies have the potential to do serious harm. Addressing the educational challenges faced by children from disadvantaged families will require a broader and bolder approach to education policy than the recent efforts to reform schools.