Government responses to educational inequalities

No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act
President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act

When George W. Bush was president, the then Republican-led Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act 2001.

This act required schools within each state to reach a certain standard in basic skills if the state was to continue receiving federal funding for education.

Bush hoped that by setting high standards in education and tracking students' progress, standards would rise.

The federal government did not set out a national achievement standard. It was up to the individual states to develop their own programs. The federal government did, however, significantly increase spending on education.

Success of No Child Left Behind Act

There was fierce debate over the success of NCLB.

Supporters claimed:

  • reading scores and scores in maths improved at their fastest rate for many years
  • reading and maths scores for African American and Hispanic children were at an all-time high
  • the gap between African American/Hispanic children and white children's scores in reading and maths were at the lowest ever levels

Critics claimed:

  • due to the states drawing up their own tests, it was easier to inflate results
  • reading and maths scores improved as schools 'manipulated results' to retain funding
  • NCLB narrowed the curriculum as states focused resources on reading and maths

Every Student Succeeds Act

  • in December 2015, the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • many schools had failed to meet the No Child Left Behind Act's targets and had received funding regardless
  • Republicans disliked the fact that the Department of Education could micromanage schools – especially after the election of Barack Obama
  • the new act was meant to give power back to individual states, though critics argued it would lead to little change