NCLB sanctions: Tests taken, lessons learned

Video

Event Summary

Were all those standardized tests for nothing? AEI adjunct scholars Thomas Ahn and Jacob Vigdor, along with a panel of notable education practitioners, sought to answer this question Wednesday evening at a lively AEI event. In presenting their just-released research on the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) effects on student achievement, Ahn and Vigdor explained how North Carolina public schools facing the most severe NCLB sanction -- school restructuring -- showed substantial gains in math and reading scores,  suggesting that leadership change is key to improving failing schools.

The authors said that while the act yielded modest improvements overall, its less severe sanctions appeared to have very little effect. Envisioning "school accountability 2.0," Vigdor and Ahn encouraged policy that moves further toward local autonomy and proposed expanding the use of value-added systems, of school-level performance incentives, and of interventions with lower-performing teachers.

Celia Hartman Sims of the New American Foundation, a vocal proponent of NCLB in its beginning stages, expressed her disappointment with its shortcomings. She argued that NCLB's micromanagement hindered its effectiveness. Expressing openness toward experimentation with local autonomy, Sims suggested that the federal government has limited ability to tailor policy to the needs of local districts.

Nina Rees of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools countered Sims, Ahn, and Vigdor, describing her skepticism of autonomy, which was in place before NCLB but suffered myriad shortcomings. She went on to challenge Vigdor and Ahn's suggestions that underperforming teachers be intervened with rather than summarily fired, pointing to the high cost to educational quality that uderperforming teachers impose on students..
--Brad Wassink

Event Description

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was signed to set high educational standards and to establish measurable goals for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. More than a decade into implementation, the results appear mixed and the outcomes contentious. New analysis from Duke University’s Jacob Vigdor and the University of Kentucky's Thomas Ahn helps shed empirical light on the debate, indicating that certain NCLB sanctions have proven more effective than others. Specifically, the threat of school restructuring significantly raised student achievement in underperforming schools.
 
In a new education environment shaped by NCLB waivers and President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, what role do sanctions play in improving student achievement? Which sanctions are effective and which are not? And how can future policy balance the carrot and stick to optimize achievement for students of all backgrounds? Join education scholars and practitioners for a discussion about the latest NCLB research and its implications for future education policy.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event life on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

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About the Author

 

Thomas
Ahn
  • Thomas Ahn is an assistant professor in the department of economics at the University of Kentucky. After serving as an officer in the South Korean army for three years, he returned to Duke University for a two-year postdoctorate position. He has taught at the University of Kentucky since 2009. Mr. Ahn's research interests are in examining general equilibrium implications (intended and unintended) of legislation and social structures, especially in the field of education policy and low-wage labor markets. His methodological focus is structural econometrics that uses theoretical modeling to guide statistical analysis. Mr. Ahn's articles have been published in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Econometrics, the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, and the Journal of Urban Economics.

  • Phone: 859.257.5975
    Email: thomas.ahn@uky.edu

 

Jacob L.
Vigdor
  • Jacob Vigdor is a professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. His research interests are in the broad areas of education policy, housing policy, and political economy. Within those areas, Mr. Vigdor has published numerous scholarly articles on the topics of residential segregation, immigration, housing affordability, the consequences of gentrification, the determinants of student achievement in elementary school, the causes and consequences of delinquent behavior among adolescents, teacher turnover, civic participation and voting patterns, and racial inequality in the labor market. These articles have been published in outlets such as the Journal of Political Economy, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Public Economics, the Journal of Human Resources, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Mr. Vigdor's scholarly activities have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Spencer Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation. Mr. Vigdor has taught at Duke since 1999.

  • Phone: 919.613.9226
    Email: jacob.vigdor@duke.edu

 

Michael Q.
McShane
  • Michael Q. McShane is a research fellow in education policy studies at AEI. He is the coeditor, with Frederick Hess, of "Common Core Meets Education Reform" (Teachers College Press, 2013). He is also the coauthor of "President Obama and Education Reform: The Personal and the Political" (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012). His analyses have been published widely in technical journals and reports including Education Finance and Policy. He has contributed to more popular publications such as Education Next, The Huffington Post, National Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He began his career as an inner-city high school teacher in Montgomery, Alabama.


    Follow Mike McShane on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5838
    Email: Michael.McShane@aei.org

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