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April 29, 2013 11:47 AM The No Child Left Behind Act Didn’t Work.

By Daniel Luzer

That’s according to a opinion piece at CATO. NCLB, George W. Bush’s signature education initiative, was designed to spur achievement by requiring schools to use standardized testing and instituting sanctions in schools that performed poorly overall (and in subgroups).

At the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library President Barack Obama even praised Bush for NCLB, saying that his initiative helped “reform our schools in ways that help every child learn, not just some.”

Not really. As Neal McCluskey at CATO explains, the only national examination used to reliably measure education performance, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) simply fails to demonstrate significant gains after to the introduction of NCLB:

The Wall Street Journal asserts that NAEP exams show “dramatic progress—sometimes double-digit increases—for the lowest achievers over the last two decades, especially after No Child Left Behind.”
Last month I debunked the idea that historically struggling groups have seen dramatic improvements under NCLB, laying out the data from numerous NAEP tests. Quite simply, looking at score gains per year, there were many periods before NCLB that saw faster improvements.

So basically, there were NAEP gains after NCLB, but they weren’t better than the gains the country saw from year to year before NCLB: “there is is no pattern of faster improvement under NCLB than before it.”

The McCluskey piece is not a new one, and he uses the NAEP data mostly to argue for school vouchers (I’m not really sure why vouchers would make NAEP scores improve faster, but whatever). But as long as it’s apparently time to reevaluate the forty-third president, we should be really critical of his education policy too.

Sure it’s not one of his colossal front-page failures like Iraq or Hurricane Katrina, but it’s still bad policy. NCLB didn’t work either.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer