NCLB sanctions: Tests taken, lessons learned

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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

 

Jacob L.
Vigdor

 

Michael Q.
McShane

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