No Child Left Behind Flunks on 3rd Anniversary Report Card; Law Needs Complete Overhaul to Promote School Reform

for further information:
Dr. Monty Neill (857) 350-8207
or Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773

for publication or broadcast on or after Wednesday, January 5, 2005


The federal "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) education plan fails by its own standards, according to a "Report Card" issued to mark Saturday's third anniversary of President George Bush signing the controversial plan into law.

NCLB earned two grades of "F" for failing to stimulate "Real Improvements in Educational Quality" and discouraging the use of "High-Quality Assessments" on the scale used by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). A grade of "D" was awarded for the law's confusing and contradictory system of school "Accountability" based on the arbitrary "adequate yearly progress" requirement. Top grade on the Report Card, an "A-," came in the category "Public Relations" with a comment noting the Bush Administration's effort "to name and promote the law with high-sounding rhetoric." The Administration earned a mixed grade of "C" for "Focusing Attention on Children Left Behind" without providing adequate resources to close learning gaps. The grades are based on a detailed analysis of NCLB in FairTest's recent report Failing Our Children.

"The Bush Administration's three-year performance on school reform flunks the test of educational accountability," explained FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill. "NCLB ends up hurting, not helping, children who have historically been left behind by encouraging educators to drill the narrow content of the tests, ignore untested subjects, manipulate statistics, and push low-scoring students out of school."

"The law's test-and-punish approach does nothing to help troubled classrooms," added Lisa Guisbond, K-12 assessment reform analyst. "Even if parents accept NCLB's often erroneous, negative school labels, they soon realize the promise of 'choice' is an illusion. To use its own language, NCLB is 'in need of very serious improvement' and fundamental 'restructuring.'"

FairTest and 32 other education, civil rights and children's advocacy organizations recently sent Congress a joint statement recommending more than a dozen changes to overhaul NCLB.

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- Documentation for Report Card grades from Failing Our Children, the Joint Statement on NCLB and a Fact Sheet on "Myths and Realities" are all available at