CATO: “NCLB a Barrier, Not an Aid”


The CATO Institutes Andrew J. Coulson has been engaging op-ed debate with NCLB architect Sandy Kress, a former member of the Bush administration. Within Coulson’s piece, he makes the point (and an important one we should all be making) that the NAEP is the assessment everyone should be using and not individual state tests. These measure long-term trends (LTTs) of students near the end of high school and are the “best gauge we have of the performance of the nation’s public schools over time.”

Coulson, who’s think tank he works for is not averse to market-based solutions in education, says that NCLB does not advance the kind of market-based reforms that work. He writes:

The state tests NCLB focuses on are all but worthless for comparing states to one another or for determining trends over time, so the law tells us considerably less than we could already discover from the NAEP. NCLB has, however, been an epic, expensive distraction, pulling the efforts of countless activists, policymakers and educators away from the market reforms that work and consuming their time arguing about the details of a policy that never had a sound research base to support it and still does not. Adding insult to injury, NCLB exacerbated the unconstitutional overreach of its earlier form, the ESEA. If NCLB worked better and more efficiently than alternative policies, and had no deleterious side effects, I would be all for amending the Constitution to allow it. It doesn’t.

So no, NCLB is not an aid to meaningful reform. It is a barrier. The sooner we get over it, the better.

Emphasis mine.

Coulson instructively gives a history lesson on the origin of NCLB. It spawned from ESEA – 1965 legislation which was part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. For the first time, federal dollars were sent to public schools.

There were no strings attached originally. What a long way we’ve come from there. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan is not threatening states that he will withhold these funds if they do not comply with NCLB.

CATO’s favoritism for market-based reforms apparently  doesn’t blind them to the clear absurdity of NCLB.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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1 Response to CATO: “NCLB a Barrier, Not an Aid”

  1. Sandra says:

    “Within Coulson’s piece, he makes the point (and an important one we should all be making) that the NAEP is the assessment everyone should be using and not individual state tests.” Many agree with this notion, irrespective of ideology, because it makes sense and is cost effective. The whole notion of a new generation of tests has not been justified. Using the NAEP is an education reform idea that is cost effective, something that should matter a great deal in these times. The whole notion of test-driven schools is so out of balance that I anticipate TSA-like jobs during test days.

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