Public Agrees NCLB Needs Overhaul

K-12 Testing


FairTest Examiner - July 2007

Opinion surveys continue to show that the public increasingly agrees with FairTest that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) needs fundamental change if it is to help and not harm the nation's students and schools. A recent Scripps Howard - University of Ohio survey confirms that increased familiarity with NCLB breeds increased dissatisfaction. Further, blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites generally agree on NCLB's flaws, countering the argument that NCLB is supported by minority communities which view it as a civil rights law. The Educational Testing Service also released a new poll with pluralities supporting a comprehensive overhaul.

Previous surveys from Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, and the Teachers Network, as well as polls of Texas, Florida and Ohio citizens also found widespread dissatisfaction with NLCB.

As demonstrated by the rapidly growing support for the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, now endorsed by 137 national organizations, there is clearly broad-based agreement with the Statement's priorities for reforming NCLB. The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA), a working group of the signers, has submitted detailed legislative recommendations based on the Statement.

Point by point, polling data shows the public generally shares the goals of FairTest, the Joint Statement and the FEA.
NCLB does not lead to genuine school improvement for most children and must be overhauled.

  • The Scripps Howard poll found 49% think the law should be changed and an additional 14% think it should be abolished.

  • The Teachers Network survey of 5600 teachers found just 1% believe NCLB is an "effective way to assess the quality of schools."

  • ASCD also found widespread dissatisfaction with NCLB among its members, with 94% of respondents saying NCLB needs more than minor adjustment.

  • Public Agenda's Reality Check 2006 found just 15% of teachers think NCLB is improving local education.

  • In addition, fifty of the nation's 56 state "teachers of the year" for 2007 signed a statement listing 10 specific ways they think the law should be changed, including ensuring that teachers receive ongoing professional development.

Reduce excessive testing mandates

  • Scripps Howard found a plurality of national respondents, 43%, felt NCLB's testing mandates have not been good for schools.

  • Similarly, an April poll conducted by the Pew Center for the People & the Press found a plurality of both public school parents (43%) and the public in general (45%) think there is too much testing under NCLB.

  • The September 2006 Gallup/Kappan poll found 69% agree that use of "a single test" would not "provide a fair picture of whether a school needs improvement," and 78% expressed concern that NCLB-mandated testing will "mean less emphasis on art, music, history, and other subjects."

  • Public Agenda's 2006 Reality Check survey found fewer than one in four parents would support a school board candidate running on a mainly testing and standards platform.

  • A statewide poll in 2006 found that 56% of Texans believe there is too much focus on testing, while a 2006 Ohio survey reported that 57% of those polled believe tests are not accurate indicators of students' progress and 55% think there is too much emphasis on testing.

  • More than 40% of those surveyed by the Teachers Network said NCLB's testing encourages rote drill, and 44% said the result has been the elimination of non-tested curriculum material.
    Replace NCLB's arbitrary proficiency targets [Adequate Yearly Progress requirements] with ambitious targets based on "rates of success actually achieved by the most effective public schools."

  • A poll of Colorado educators released in January by Senator Ken Salazar found 86% of those surveyed believe NCLB's goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 is unachievable.

  • In the Teachers Network poll, 63% strongly disagreed with the statement that NCLB's AYP mechanism is an effective way to measure the quality of schools.

  • Seventy percent of the ASCD's 178,000 members identified AYP and testing format and design as areas in need of a good or great deal of change.

There is widespread agreement on NCLB across different segments of the population.

  • Scripps Howard found majorities of Whites (64%), Hispanics (67%), African-Americans (58%), and Asian-Americans (54%) opposed to NCLB.

  • The Florida study found that 78% of African Americans oppose continuing to use the state FCAT test to "grade public schools, give financial rewards to the best performing schools and determine if students get promoted or graduate."

As knowledge of NCLB increases, support declines.

  • Scripps Howard found higher opposition to NCLB among those who are more familiar with the law: 73% of those "Very Familiar" with the law are opposed, compared to 64% of those "somewhat familiar" and 49% of those not familiar.

  • On the ETS poll, the proportion with unfavorable views of NCLB increased from 38% in 2005 to 41% in 2006 and 43% in 2007.


· An article on the Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll is at
· The 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools is available at
· Florida: Times-Union/South Florida Sun-Sentinel survey, article of 9/23/06; the full survey is at
· Texas: Dallas Morning News, Oct. 4, 2006.
· The 2006 KnowledgeWorks Foundation survey of Ohio residents is at
· The Pew Center poll is at

· The most recent and previous ETS surveys are at