Report: NCLB, ESSA spurred valuable accountability measures

Dive Brief:

  • Over the past 20 years, federal K-12 education policies have made positive strides in using data to make sure schools monitor the progress of student subgroups, not just the average student, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, an affiliate of the nonprofit business advocacy organization.
  • While No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act-era accountability and assessment policies have led to overall increased student achievement, the report said, reforms fell short of improving outcomes for all students at all schools. 
  • The study also highlights ongoing unknowns, such as how characteristics and context of organizations impact reforms and why attention to effective teacher preparation programs was largely left out of these federal policies.

Dive Insight:

The review of landmark education policies over the past two decades is part of the foundation’s Future of Data, Assessments, and Accountability in K-12 Education initiative, a multi-year effort to look into the effectiveness of data and assessments in public schools.

The initiative has “revealed what we know and do not know about the last 20 years of federal education policy and lays the groundwork to develop a framework to improve the system for all of America’s students,” said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber Foundation, in a statement.   

This analysis and review can be a reference point for future reauthorizations of ESSA, the report said. ESSA’s passage in 2015 reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, replacing the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

The report said that between 2001 and 2015, federal education policy expanded in “new and important ways.” For example, No Child Left Behind was vital in bringing the disaggregation of performance data for students with disabilities, students of color, English learners and other student populations.

Although research into NCLB and connected reforms like Race to the Top can’t show the full picture of progress on some nonacademic measures, the law’s legacy of accountability on behalf of diverse learners and for data-based decision making are traits that even testing critics said holds value, the report said. 

The quantitative research review was authored by Dan Goldhaber and Michael DeArmond of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data In Education Research at the American Institutes for Research. Chris Stewart and a team at Brightbeam, a nonprofit focused on improving education, wrote the qualitative analysis.

This article originally appeared in

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