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NASBE President on No Child Left Behind Anniversary


For Immediate Release: January 8, 2018

Contact: Michael Spaeth, michael.spaeth@nasbe.org, 703-684-4002

NASBE President on No Child Left Behind Anniversary

Alexandria, VA – NASBE President and CEO Kristen Amundson issued this statement on the No Child Left Behind Act’s sixteenth anniversary:

Sixteen years ago, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law. That landmark legislation—passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate—created an enduring legacy and continues to inspire our resolute commitment to unmasking differences between student groups. NCLB challenged the “soft bigotry of low expectations” by insisting that all students can meet high standards. 

NCLB’s longest lasting legacy is its insistence on disaggregated data. Today, reporting data by student groups is viewed as essential to accurately diagnosing problems in the education system and measuring the progress in overcoming them. These data lay bare persistent, pernicious achievement and opportunity gaps—gaps that threaten our economic vitality and are morally and ethically unacceptable. Data on our troubling achievement gaps give teachers, school leaders, and policymakers the tools to address these challenges honestly and pursue innovative, equitable solutions.

For countless education leaders, these gaps in achievement and opportunities have been and continue to be a call to action, and their efforts to narrow these gaps are praiseworthy and inspiring. While parts of NCLB fell short and consequently earned strong criticism, the legislation was spot on in urging us all to relentlessly pursue equity and excellence for each and every child.

Far too often, partisan differences block the road toward better student outcomes. The anniversary of NCLB reminds us that education is an issue where we must put these differences aside and act in the best interest of students. The recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—exemplifies bipartisan collaboration at its best and reminds us it is possible, even in hyperpartisan times.

Under ESSA, state boards of education gain both tremendous opportunity and great responsibility. With the removal of NCLB’s scripted federal interventions, states that can summon the political will to do so can innovate, develop new measures of school success, and design interventions to meet the specific needs of their struggling schools. Yet it is up to state boards to ensure that their states do not retreat toward short-sighted pre-NCLB practices that did not advance equity and excellence. For example, state board members should continue to keep expectations for students high and push back when the response to low performance is to instead lower the bar. We applaud state board members working with stakeholders to better understand the challenges confronting our schools and collaboratively design solutions.

Over the last 16 years, our nation has come a long way, but the finish line is still far in the distance. Leadership from state board members matters now more than ever. And setting high expectations for every student continues to matter.

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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