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NEPC Review: End It, Don't Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind (September 2007)

This new report from the Cato Institute begins with a solid analysis of No Child Left Behind's difficult-to-discern effects on student achievement, concluding that the law has narrowed the curriculum while failing to boost test scores. The report also includes a useful, though one-sided, review of current debates on Capitol Hill, focusing on proposals that the authors believe offer little more than tinkering with the current law. This prompts the question of why major players have yet to back out of this short-term policy quagmire and ask, what would an effective federal role look like? Despite this provocative thinking, the authors ultimately fall back on the Cato creed: shrink the central state and expand market choice in every sector of human activity. The report suffers from two key weaknesses. First, the authors ignore historical evidence showing that state-led accountability efforts, extending through the late 1990s, were associated with significant gains in achievement and narrower racial gaps. Rather than asking how Washington might learn from the states' apparent success, the authors infer from NCLB's limitations that any federal education policy will fail. Second, the authors' failure to subject market-based approaches to the same critical analysis applied to NCLB leads them to endorse a very narrow range of policy alternatives.

Suggested Citation:

Fuller, B. (2007). Review of "End It, Don't Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind."  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from

Document Reviewed:

End It, Don't Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind

Neal McCluskey and Andrew J. Coulson
Cato Institute