Some fixes needed to close gaps
AZ Republic
Sept. 9, 2007


Gary Huggins

No Child Left Behind transformed federal education policy by focusing on measurable results rather than vague goals and compliance with regulations.

Rather than judging performance based on schoolwide averages, the revolutionary law also ensured that large numbers of children no longer remained "invisible" in state accountability systems by requiring student progress to be reported by subgroups: African-American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English-language learners and others.

Though NCLB has spurred some progress, it has not been enough. Unacceptable achievement gaps between White students and minorities persist. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars for remediation and retraining of high-school graduates unprepared for higher education and the workplace.
Students in other nations consistently outperform our top students on international test comparisons.

The Aspen Institute's Commission on NCLB spent more than a year assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the law through a bipartisan process that included public hearings and roundtable forums across the country. We have concluded that this nation cannot back away from our commitment to ensure that all children achieve to high expectations.

Informed by more than five years of experience in classrooms, central offices, state houses and the public square since NCLB's passage, we must make adjustments to refine accountability measures and improve student access to options such as free tutoring and public-school choice. We must also take bold steps to build on the law's foundation and accelerate progress toward achieving its goals. Key commission recommendations for improving the law include:

Highly effective teachers: Allow states the flexibility to make teacher-quality determinations based on effectiveness in student achievement in the classroom rather than qualifications for entering the profession.

College ready standards: Create model national standards for voluntary state adoption, and report to the public on the relative rigor and quality of expectations in states that choose not to use them.

High-school accountability: Require consistent calculation of graduation rates by states (reported by subgroups) and hold them accountable for closing graduation rate gaps.

A reauthorized NCLB that incorporates these important reforms and refinements will ensure that children are academically proficient, are able to meet the demands of good citizenship and can avail themselves of the opportunities that a high-quality education affords.

Gary Huggins is director of the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left Behind. To access the full report, visit