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'No Child Left Behind'

A look at the ambitious promise, surprising politics, and potential pitfalls of President George W. Bush's landmark education bill, the No Child Left Behind Act.

The President's Big TestOverview: The New Rules
In a Web-exclusive interview with FRONTLINE, Nicholas Lemann, the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker and a noted expert on the history and politics of education reform, talks about the debate over President Bush's education bill, the real winners and losers, the obstacles that remain, and what Bush achieved in his first major legislative victory.

Overview: The New Rules
A brief summary of the testing and accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed by President Bush on Jan. 8, 2002.

Can This Bill Live Up to Its Name?
The phrase "no child left behind" was not only a mantra of George W. Bush's presidential campaign, it provided the name for Bush's ambitious education-reform bill. Keeping that promise is a tall order, and the president's supporters are fervent in their belief that the only way it can be done is by enforcing higher standards for all students through increased testing and tougher accountability for schools. What are the underlying arguments in favor of the president's plan? And what do the experts see as the pitfalls of the new testing policy? Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, education policy experts Amy Wilkins and Bob Schwartz, and educational testing experts James Popham, George Madaus, and William Schmidt.

The Testing Industry's Big Four
Congress set aside $400 million to help states develop and administer the tests that the No Child Left Behind Act mandated for children in grades 3-8. Here's a look at the four companies (three test publishers and one scoring firm) that stand to benefit most.


Government Resources

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Executive Summary
The Education Department's official site includes this summary of the bill, as well as a fact sheet and a document entitled "Testing for Results," which explains the administration's position on testing.

Fact Sheet: Accountability for Student Achievement
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce offers this overview of the testing and accountability provisions of the final bill. The House site also offers this summary of the overall bill.

Other Resources

No State Left Behind: The Challenges and Opportunities of ESEA 2001
The No Child Left Behind Act is an extension and revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) "summarizes the new ESEA, looks at states' readiness to implement provisions of the law and provides key questions for policymakers to consider."

FairTest: Analysis of ESEA
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), is an advocacy organization working to ensure that evaluation of students and workers is fair, open, and educationally sound. FairTest staff prepared this analysis of the testing and accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Reports and Commentary

"Testing Limits," by Nicholas Lemann
"Can President Bush's education crusade survive Beltway politics?" (The New Yorker, July 2, 2001.)

"Long Road to Reform," by David S. Broder
"A partial account of how the landmark [education] legislation managed to survive intensive lobbying pressures and deep suspicions harbored by many in both parties, as well as a political upheaval in the Senate and the outbreak of a war on terrorism." (The Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2001.)

"Leaving Education Reform Behind," by Chester E. Finn Jr.
"Bush will sign the bill. But there's not much good left in it." (The Weekly Standard, Jan. 14, 2002.)

"Reading Between the Lines," by Stephen Metcalf
"The new education law is a victory for Bush -- and for his corporate allies." (The Nation, Jan. 28, 2002)

"Why the Education Bill Is Likely to Fail," by Lorraine Woellert
"President Bush wanted a reform bill so badly that he may have compromised his way into a toothless one." (BusinessWeek Online, Dec. 26, 2001.)

"How to Fix America's Schools," by William C. Symonds
"What would it take to achieve the President's goal of 'no child left behind'? A broad range of experts and educators helped us draw up seven strategies that, pursued together, would go a long way toward fixing America's schools." (BusinessWeek, March 19, 2001.)

"High Stakes Are For Tomatoes," by Peter Schrag
"Statewide testing of students, with penalties for failure, has run into opposition from parents across the political spectrum." (The Atlantic Monthly, August 2000.)

"Hard Lessons," an interview with Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch, former Bush education adviser and author of Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms (2000), argues for a return to academic rigor in our nation's public schools. (Atlantic Unbound, Nov. 1, 2000.)

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