Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009
The George W. Bush Years: NCLB - Federal Intervention in School Practice
Implementation of NCLB was getting under way when the nation was devastated by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That adversity shifted the nation's, and particularly the federal government's, focus to safety and defense in the face of U.S. vulnerability to global terrorism. From that date to the time of this writing in early 2006, controversies over the dramatic increase in federal oversight and intervention under NCLB, which would likely have sustained a high profile for the act in Congress and the administration, have been subordinated to fundamental issues of security.
Nevertheless, as states and localities have administered NCLB, the effects have reached nearly every public school classroom in the nation. The impacts of the new testing requirements, and their fit or conflict with existing state assessment systems; the new reading and math "proficiency" targets, previously untested by any large-scale systems; the new provisions for reporting performance by subgroups of students, with myriad issues about who should be tested and how large subgroups must be to assure the validity of results; and other issues have generated intense reactions at the school, district, state, and national levels. Only after the initial year of implementation did educators and the public develop a broad understanding of the extent to which federal education policy had intervened in school practice. As noted earlier, some states have contested or are contesting NCLB provisions in the courts. In other cases, technical issues of calculating and reporting AYP have been brought to the U.S. Education Department for clarity or relief. Examples of NCLB controversies related to state and federal policies follow.