Perspectives on No Child Left Behind, 10 Years After Its Signing

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, January 13, 2012

For all its admirable intentions and the measurable gains it has produced, a decade after George W. Bush’s signature education overhaul became law, the consensus among policymakers and educators is grim: The good that’s come of No Child Left Behind no longer outweighs the bad.

For an article in this week’s issue of TIME, I talked to a wide range of current and former administration officials, teachers, students, reformers, union leaders, experts and other education insiders to get their thoughts on the law’s complex legacy and uncertain future. What follows is a brief tour of their perspectives.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education

The world has really changed in significant and encouraging ways. Because of what we’ve learned through No Child Left Behind, both the good and the bad, we’re much smarter now as a country.

There’s just so much broken in the law now that I actually think it’s become an impediment to progress.

Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education, who served under George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009 and helped implement many parts of NCLB

Everything from head lice to childhood obesity to layoffs has been laid at the feet of No Child Left Behind. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the law does and does not require.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association teachers union

For all the good intentions, No Child Left Behind really missed the mark. We need some major course correction. It makes me sad to think about how many teachers have only taught under NCLB and don’t know what it was like before.

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