No Child Left Behind — What Worked?

Ben Casselman:

Nearly a decade and a half later, No Child Left Behind is often described as a failure, and there is no question that the law fell short of many of its most ambitious goals. Most schools didn’t come close to achieving the 100-percent-proficiency mandate, which experts never considered a realistic target. Subsequent research found that the law’s penalties did little to improve student performance, and may have done more harm than good in some schools. Large achievement gaps remain, in part because Congressdidn’t provide all of the billions of dollars in additional education funding that the law’s backers envisioned.

This month, Congress closed the book on No Child Left Behind for good when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which stripped away many of the old law’s most rigid requirements, including dismantling the metric that labeled Beverly’s schools a failure more than a decade earlier. Even before the new law passed, the education debate had largely moved on to fights over the Common Core curriculum and the role of testing in teacher evaluation.

But for all its failures, No Child Left Behind had at least one significant — and, experts say, lasting — success: It changed the way the American educational system collects and uses data. The law may not have achieved the promise of its title, but it did force schools across the country to figure out which students were being left behind, and to make that information public. Education experts argue that the law’s true legacy is the way it laid bare the inequities in the American educational system, and forced districts, in some cases for the first time, to address them.

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