Policy Matters is a quarterly series of reports that provide timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Volume 3, Issue 3 by Patrick Guggino and Steven Brint, Does the No Child Left Behind Act Help or Hinder K-12 Education?

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Executive Summary

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has had notable effects on K-12 education, yet the views of teachers have rarely been considered in the debate over the effects and effectiveness of NCLB. Since teachers as a profession are explicitly charged with implementing the policies handed down by the federal and state governments, their attitudes and assessment of the legislation and its effects play a significant role in how these policies are viewed, implemented, and evaluated. This research examines the ways in which National Board Certified Teachers, as highly accomplished educators, view how NCLB impacted their professional practice and their status as professionals.

In the spring of 2007, we conducted an online survey of National Board Certified Teachers in California, with over 740 respondents. We asked teachers about their overall assessment of No Child Left Behind, as well as many questions relating to the impact of NCLB on three dimen- sions of teacher professionalism: their technical areas of practice, the service ethic of teaching, and their professional commitments. The survey results indicate that some teachers indicated that NCLB helped to organize and focus on core subject matter, to plan better, and to increase teacher expectations for student learning. However, they also felt that the depth and differentiation
of curriculum was sacrificed, creating an overly narrow conception of the meaning of educa- tion. Some teachers felt that NCLB made it difficult for teachers to get through to unmotivated students, while many felt that NCLB had a negative effect on teacher enthusiasm. Overall, 84 percent of teachers surveyed reported unfavorable attitudes towards NCLB.

During the process of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, policy makers will attempt to make improvements by studying national test results and debating ways to improve them. Our results suggest that future changes to NCLB should be informed by the perspectives of teachers, particularly those who are highly trained and have National Board Certification. The classroom experiences and professional expertise of these teachers should be important considerations in future efforts to improve student learning through legislative efforts such as NCLB.

Patrick Guggino received his Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction from UC Riverside. Steven Brint is Professor of Sociology at UC Riverside. The authors can be reached at the following email addresses: pguggino@cousd.k12.ca.us and steven.brint@ucr.edu.