Bipartisan Panel of State Lawmakers Agree: NCLB Has Failed US Kids

Confirming what many public education advocates have been saying for years, a new report from a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers declares that the United States has little to show for more than a decade of reform efforts inspired by the controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The report released Tuesday from the National Conference of State Legislatures, No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State (pdf), charges that “[s]tates have found little success” in developing an effective education system. Indeed, the executive summary reads, “Recent reforms have underperformed because of silver bullet strategies and piecemeal approaches.”

Touching on key aspects of NCLB such as high-stakes testing, the report explains:

In turn, the summary states, “most state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world in a number of international comparisons and on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress, leaving the United States overwhelmingly underprepared to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

The 22 state legislators behind the report—half Democrats, half Republicans—suggest that by studying “high-performing systems” in other countries, the U.S. could regain its footing. 

The “silver bullet” approach employed by U.S. states “is not what the study group found in high-performing countries,” the report points out. “They do not look to single policy shifts to improve student outcomes. Instead, they have created a coherent system of education within which all policies and practices are designed to lead to high performance.”

As the Washington Post reports:

The Guardian zooms in on another significant finding:

Fortunately, the era of NCLB is over, as the law has been replaced by the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

ESSA “ends the NCLB requirement that states look almost exclusively at test scores to determine whether and how to reward or sanction schools, and also ends the Race To The Top requirement that states use tests that are linked to the Common Core State Standards in order to evaluate and reward or punish not only students and schools, but also teachers,” author and University of San Francisco School of Education dean Kevin Kumashiro wrote in December. 

However, he said at the time, “the bad news is that this new law still presumes that testing is the magic bullet.”

With the National Conference of State Legislatures report warning against such bullets—whether silver or magic—Kumashiro’s conclusion seems prescient: “The silver lining is that this law is scheduled for reauthorization in four years, not the typical seven,” he wrote. “Let’s use that time to craft a framework that will truly support every student’s success and a public school system that embodies the promises of our nation.”

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