Former President George W. Bush is “extremely proud” of No Child Left Behind’s effects he tells Andrew Rotherham on the law’s 10th anniversary.
For the first time, the federal government basically demanded results in return for money. It started by saying, We expect you to measure [student performance]. As a result, there has been a noticeable change in achievement, particularly among minority groups. And I’m proud of that accomplishment and proud of the fact we were able to work with people from both parties to get it done.
The 10th anniversary is “a time to fight off those who would weaken standards or accountability,” Bush adds in the Time interview. People in both parties are trying to weaken accountability, he says. (He seems to be more concerned about small-government Republicans than Democrats.)
Some on the right think there is no role for the federal government [in education]. Some on the left are saying it’s unfair to teachers — basically, union issues. People don’t like to be held to account.
Pouring federal dollars into schools, regardless of results, had to end, writes Rotherham in defense of NCLB.
The increased focus on accountability has produced some benefits. For starters, NCLB has changed educators from arguing about whether to hold schools accountable for performance to arguing about how to do it. That’s no small accomplishment in a field that is notoriously hostile to change and is particularly averse to the concept of consequential accountability. (It’s hard to overstate this; I’ve been in meetings where people have requested that words like “performance” not be used because they consider them offensive terms.) . . . Elementary and secondary education is a $650 billion annual undertaking, but, until recently, even basic measures of — yes — performance were not routinely taken or analyzed.
The law highlighted achievement gaps and sparked achievement gains or low-income and minority kids, Rotherham writes.
On the flip side, NCLB left most of the major decisions to states and localities, letting “proficiency” be defined down. Many schools have taken “ineffective or even counterproductive steps in an effort to boost test scores rather than actually teach kids.”
President Bush pumped up federal education spending, but “these dollars were sent through the same pipes and used in much the same way they had been for the previous three decades,” Rotherham concludes.
Ed Week rounds up commentary from the usual suspects.