Report: NCLB has led to gains in achievement–but a narrower curricular focus

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is having a significant impact on the day-to-day activities of school systems, prompting districts to align instruction with state standards and use test data to adjust teaching, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy (CEP), which tracks implementation of the law. However, 71 percent of districts surveyed reported having reduced instructional time in at least one other subject to make more time for reading and mathematics, the topics tested for NCLB purposes. Though the vast majority of state and district officials surveyed say the law’s focus on the academic performance of student subgroups is having a positive effect, the report also notes that many officials believe the law has escalated pressure on teachers to a stressful level and is negatively affecting staff morale in some schools. “The effects of NCLB are complex, and this policy has both strengths and weaknesses,” said Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the independent, nonpartisan CEP. “If anyone is looking for a simple judgment on NCLB, such as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ they will not find it in this report.” The report, “From the Capital to the Classroom: Year 4 of the No Child Left Behind Act,” is the fourth in a series of annual reports to be issued through 2008 by CEP, offering a long-term look at how the law’s implementation is affecting states and school districts. The report also looks at case-study districts from all 50 states.

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