In January 2002, President George W Bush signed into law what is arguably the most important piece of US educational legislation for the past 35 years. For the first time, Public Law 107-110 links high stakes testing with strict accountability measures designed to ensure that, at least in schools that receive government funding, no child is left behind. The appropriately named No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) links government funding to strict improvement policies for America’s public schools. Much of what is undertaken in NCLB is praiseworthy, the Act is essentially equitable for it ensures that schools pay due regard to the progress of those sections of the school population who have traditionally done less well in school, in particular, students from economically disadvantaged homes, as well as those from ethnic minority backgrounds and those who have limited proficiency to speak English. However, this seemingly salutatory aspect of the Act is also the one that has raised the most objections. This paper describes the key features of this important piece of legislation before outlining why it is that a seemingly equitable Act has produced so much consternation in US education circles. Through an exploration of school level data for the state of New Jersey, the paper considers the extent to which these concerns have been justified during the early days of No Child Left Behind
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