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NCLB Outrages

End It, Don't Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind

For the complete report, go to the url below.

Ohanian Comment: Like me, you will probably agree with much of the criticism of NCLB offered by these authors. Look to page 15 for the recommendation I will support: Abolish the U. S. Department of Education.

After much grousing, much of it legitimate, about what other corporate-political groups such as the Aspen Institute and the Council of Chief State School Officers are doing about NCLB, the authors get to their real point on p. 12: The Education Market. Now they dish out such language as parent-chosen private schools vs. bureaucratic state-run education systems, and we understand why they offered no acknowledgment of the NCLB criticisms offered by progressive education groups or, say, The National Council of Churches.

These are the free market fellows. They claim to cite data showing "achievement per dollar." For the authors, truly effective policies are those based on parental choice, school autonomy, and competition.

Looking at the titles of other papers in this series gives you a good idea of the content of this one:

Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict by Neal
McCluskey (January 23, 2007)

The Cato Education Market Index by Andrew J. Coulson with advisers
James Gwartney, Neal McCluskey, John Merrifield, David Salisbury, and
Richard Vedder (December 14, 2006)

Giving Kids the Chaff: How to Find and Keep the Teachers We Need by
Marie Gryphon (September 25, 2006)

Saving Money and Improving Education: How School Choice Can Help
States Reduce Education Costs by David Salisbury (October 4, 2005)

No Child Left Behind: The Dangers of Centralized Education Policy by
Lawrence A. Uzzell (May 31, 2005)

Corruption in the Public Schools: The Market Is the Answer by Neal
McCluskey (April 14, 2005)

Making College More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of
Federal Tuition Aid by Gary Wolfram (January 25, 2005)

A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go? by
Neal McCluskey (July 7, 2004)

Education and Indoctrination in the Muslim World: Is There a Problem?
What Can We Do about It? by Andrew Coulson (March 11, 2004)

The Struggle for School Choice Policy after Zelman: Regulation vs. the
Free Market by H. Lillian Omand (October 29, 2003)

Our History of Educational Freedom: What It Should Mean for Families
Today by Marie Gryphon and Emily A. Meyer (October 8, 2003)

What Does a Voucher Buy? A Closer Look at the Cost of Private Schools
by David F. Salisbury (August 28, 2003

Nonetheless, we can offer a strong "Yes!" when these fellows advocate the abolition of the U. S. Department of Education.

by Neal McCluskey and Andrew J. Coulson

Executive Summary

The looming expiration of the federal No Child Left Behind Act has prompted a flood of commission reports, studies, and punditry. Virtually all of those analyses have assumed that the law should and will be reauthorized, disagreeing only over how it should be revised. They have accepted the law's premises without argument: that government-imposed standards and bureaucratic "accountability" are effective mechanisms for improving American education and that Congress should be involved in their implementation.

In this paper, we put those preconceptions under a microscope and subject NCLB to a thorough review. We explore its effectiveness to date and ask whether its core principles are sound. We find that No Child Left Behind has been ineffective in achieving its intended goals, has had negative unintended consequences, is incompatible with policies that do work, is at the mercy of a political process that can only worsen its prospects, and is based on premises that are fundamentally flawed. We further conclude that NCLB oversteps the federal government's constitutional limits—treading on a responsibility that, by law and tradition, is reserved to the states and the people. We therefore recommend that NCLB not be reauthorized and that the federal government return to its constitutional bounds by ending its involvement in elementary and secondary education.

Neal McCluskey is an education policy analyst and the author of Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education. Andrew J. Coulson is director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute and the author of Market Education: The Unknown History.

— Neal McCluskey and Andrew J. Coulson
Policy Analysis, Cato Institute


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