The Federal Role in Education: Considerations for ESEA Reauthorization

Reading List: NCLB Overview and Implementation

Overview of NCLB

Stullich, S., Eisner, E., & McCrary, J. (2007). National assessment of Title I, final report. Volume I: Implementation. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences. pp. 1-6. Available at

This congressionally-mandated study evaluates the implementation and impact of NCLB. The introduction included in this binder summarizes NCLB’s key provisions, reviewing major requirements and the timeline of implementation for these provisions. This section also discusses changes enacted by NCLB, comparing NCLB with the previous iteration of ESEA regarding assessments, accountability, and teacher quality provisions.

Implementation of NCLB: General

** Stullich, S., Abrams, A., Eisner, E., & Lee, E. (2009). Title I implementation: Update on recent evaluation findings. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. pp. xiii-xx. Available at

An update to the congressionally-mandated National Assessment of Title I, the executive summary of the report explores: a) NCLB’s effect on student achievement trends, b) states’ implementation of accountability and assessment systems, c) the eligibility, use, implementation, and monitoring of school choice and supplemental educational services, and d) implementation of teacher quality and professional development. The report also summarizes whether NCLB affected student achievement, finding that although student achievement for most student groups rose and achievement gaps appeared to narrow, achievement did not increase enough to meet NCLB’s goal of attaining 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14.

Outcomes of NCLB

**Smith, M. S. (2010 March). NAEP: What about NCLB? (PowerPoint presentation). Not available online.

This PowerPoint presentation examines whether NCLB has increased the rates of growth for student achievement in reading and mathematics on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) by comparing them to growth rates in these subjects before the inception of NCLB. The report indicates that reading scores for three subgroups (White, African-American, Hispanic) had more growth before 2002, which indicates that NCLB may have had a negative effect on reading scores for grades 4th and 8th. According to the analysis, NCLB may also have had a negative effect on NAEP 4th grade math, and no effect on 8th grade math.

**Dee, T., & Jacob, B. (2009). The impact of No Child Left Behind on student achievement. (NBER Working Paper 15531). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Available at

Please note: The appendices of this article are not included in the binder; the paper is available in its entirety on the CD.

This working paper addresses the question of whether NCLB affected student achievement outcomes. Utilizing state-level panel data of fourth and eighth grade NAEP scores from 1990 through 2007, the study finds mixed results of NCLB. The authors report that NCLB generated statistically significant increases in the average math performance of both fourth and eighth graders—especially among traditionally low-achieving groups and at the lower percentiles. However the authors found no evidence of increases in reading achievement in either grade.

Herman, J.L. (2007). Accountability and assessment: Is public interest in K-12 education being served? CRESST Report 728. Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, University of California Los Angeles. Available at

This article explores whether accountability under NCLB has led to improved opportunities to learn or improved student performance. From 2000 to 2005, NAEP trends show some positive performance effects in math for grades 4 and 8 and improvement for grade 4 reading, but a decline in grade 8 reading; the author attempts to explore these gains further by examining individual states as well as differentiating system characteristics. Overall, the author believes that accountability will better serve the public interest when standards clearly communicate realistic expectations, when they represent skills that students will need for future success and when performance expectations are high yet attainable.

Carey, K. (2006). Hot air: How states inflate their educational progress under NCLB. Education sector: The evidence suggests otherwise. Washington DC: Education Sector. Available at

This article provides an overview of one of the issues to consider when examining a state’s progress under NLCB: states’ ability to set their own standards and assessments for making progress. The author studied data submitted by state education departments to the U.S. Department of Education from 2003 through 2005 and found that a significant number of states used their standard-setting flexibility under NCLB to drastically lower their standards. The author describes state practices of lowering proficiency and adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards to inflate school and district progress. States have also used their standard-setting flexibility to lower standards for discipline and safety issues to reduce the number of their schools labeled as persistently dangerous. Additionally, the author argues that many states have lowered both their teacher content knowledge standards and their professional development standards.

Center on Education Policy. (2007). Choices, changes, and challenges: Curriculum and instruction in the NCLB era. Washington, DC: Author. Available at

This article describes the results of a nationally-representative survey of school districts and of district- and school-level interviews aimed at determining the effects of NCLB on curriculum and instruction. The study finds that since NCLB was enacted, districts spend more time on tested subjects, spend less time on non-tested subjects, and put a greater emphasis on tested content and skills. These shifts in curriculum and instruction were more prevalent in districts with a greater number of schools identified for improvement.

Implementation of NCLB: Funding

Chambers, J.G., Lam, I., Mahitivanichcha, K., Esra, P., Shambaugh, L., & Stullich, S. (2009). State and local implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Volume VI: Targeting and uses of federal education funds (Executive summary). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. Available at

This federally-funded report examines how six federal education programs under NCLB, (Title I, Part A; Reading First; Comprehensive School Reform (CSR); Title II, Part A; Title III, Part A; and Perkins Vocational Education State Grants) are distributed. The article documents how effectively these federal funds are targeted to high-need schools and districts that are serving economically disadvantaged children and how districts have spent those funds. The report indicates that more federal funds were directed to high-poverty districts than state and local funds were but did not close the funding gap. Specifically, while a variety of changes have been made to Title I provisions to improve the targeting of funds, the share of Title I funds going to the highest poverty districts and schools remained practically unchanged from the 1997-98 school year to 2004-05. Additionally, the authors find that across all six programs most funds were used for instructional support and professional development.

**This document is considered a priority reading.