No Child Left behind and the Reduction of the Achievement Gap: Sociological Perspectives on Federal Educational Policy

By Alan R. Sadovnik; Jennifer A. O’Day et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

George W. Bohrnstedt and Jennifer A. O’Day

The year is 2007—five years since the landmark No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) became law and the year when reauthorization talks begin in earnest. The purpose of this volume is to contribute to those discussions, as well as to ongoing implementation efforts in the field, by bringing the insights of sociological theory and research to bear on the design and implementation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), of which NCLB is but the latest iteration.


HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF NCLB

Since Lyndon Johnson signed the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, the lion’s share of federal funding for K–12 education has been directed toward improving educational opportunities for poor and low-achieving students in the nations schools. From its inception, aspirations for ESEA have been high, as exemplified by Johnson’s promise that “…every one of the billion dollars that we spend on this program, will come back tenfold as school dropouts change to school graduates.” Although Johnson’s promise has not been realized, federal efforts have persisted. ESEA has been reauthorized six times, each iteration attempting to rectify the shortcomings of its predecessors.

Under the first four reauthorizations, ESEA primarily provided supplementary services to poor and low-achieving children under Title I/Chapter 1 of the law. With Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 (IASA), however, the scope of ESEA broadened. Following on the heels of the Goals 2000 Act, which provided funds for the voluntary creation of state content and performance standards, IASA required such standards and aligned assessments for students served by the act. Because the standards for Title I students had to be the same as for all other students in the state, the 1994 reauthorized ESEA was essentially leveraging

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