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No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools

Scott Franklin Abernathy

Publication Year: 2007

“A powerful, detailed, and exceptionally balanced critique of NCLB. It offers some hope for how we might overcome its faults. No legislator or educational expert should be allowed to get away with not reading it—whether to agree or disagree. It’s a must learning experience.” —Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar and Adjunct Professor, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University, and author of In Schools We Trust “A concise, highly readable, and balanced account of NCLB, with insightful and realistic suggestions for reform. Teachers, professors, policymakers, and parents—this is the one book about NCLB you ought to read.” —James E. Ryan, William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law This far-reaching new study looks at the successes and failures of one of the most ambitious and controversial educational initiatives since desegregation—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. NCLB’s opponents criticize it as underfunded and unworkable, while supporters see it as a radical but necessary educational reform that evens the score between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Yet the most basic and important question remains unasked: “Can we ever really know if a child’s education is good?” Ultimately, Scott Franklin Abernathy argues, policymakers must begin from this question, rather than assuming that any test can accurately measure the elusive thing we call “good” education.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii-x

Some time ago—in the eighth grade, I believe—I came to a sort of epiphany about U.S. politics. Reflecting on “I’m Just a Bill” from the America Rock Saturday morning educational series on ABC, I decided (for the purpose of realism) that Bill, our cartoon legislative friend trying to become a law, should be surrounded by ninety or so expired...

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1. The Best-Laid Plans

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pp. 1-24

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Samuel W. King, the newly appointed superintendent of the Portland, Oregon, schools, wanted results. Eager to improve his town’s public education, King turned to standardized tests. He initiated a comprehensive system of test-based accountability, publishing the test results in the local newspapers...

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2. The Problem of Quality

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pp. 25-45

What, exactly, do teachers and principals do with and for children when they are at school? Parents send their children to school for the better part of their waking lives but rarely have much of an idea about what has happened at the critical interface between their minds and the variety of experiences they encounter and in which they have...

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3. Making the Grade (or Not): Success and Failure in NCLB’s World

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pp. 46-73

On a cool August day at the 2003 Minnesota State Fair, Republican governor Tim Pawlenty helped a South St. Paul fifth-grader named Jeremy look up his school’s brand-new report card on the Internet. Calling the program Accountability on a Stick—in reference to the fact that people attending the Minnesota State Fair can find almost...

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4. Top-Down and Bottom-Up: NCLB, Charter Schools, and the Public School Principalship

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pp. 74-106

Accountability systems based on cross-sectional test score results tell us much more about the race, ethnicity, and resource inequalities of students than about the underlying quality of the schooling. But it is also true that leadership can matter to academic achievement, even when measured with an instrument as blunt as aggregate test scores. ...

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5. Rethinking Assessment

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pp. 107-129

The results of the analyses in the previous chapters provide cause for concern but also for hope. Unfortunately, identification under No Child Left Behind appears to be related mostly to factors that principals and teachers cannot control. Identification also appears to produce the kinds of unfortunate bureaucratic responses that the theory...

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6. Carrots, Sticks, and Unbroken Windows: Making NCLB Live Up to Its Promises

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pp. 130-150

The measurement of educational quality is as messy and complicated as education itself. But it is not impossible, and it would be a mistake to wave our hands and assume that No Child Left Behind cannot be fixed. The law undoubtedly constitutes a flawed vehicle, but it makes the kinds of promises to our most disadvantaged ...

Appendix: Supplementary Tables

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pp. 151-168


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pp. 169-187


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pp. 189-199


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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780472021512
E-ISBN-10: 0472021516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472069798
Print-ISBN-10: 0472069799

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 16 Figures and 35 Tables
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 613401893
MUSE Marc Record: Download for No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Educational accountability -- United States.
  • Education -- Standards -- United States.
  • United States. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
  • Public schools -- United States.
  • Federal aid to education -- United States.
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