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Spring 2004
The Education Imperative
Beyond Rhetoric
8 Mile
Starting Out on the Right Path
Principals of Leadership
No Child Left Behind
Diversity, Economics and Education
Globalization’s Missing Middle
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Spring 2004
No Child Left Behind
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Illustration of the Overpowering Influence of Education
In the national debate over what is necessary to improve the quality of education, how exactly will success be measured?

By Eva L. Baker ED.D. '67
Illustration by Ken Orvidas
Photography by Gregg Segal

THERE IS NO QUESTION that American students need to be among the most skilled and academically competitive students in the world. Yet there continues to be dispute about how educational excellence is best achieved within American traditions and values. After almost two decades of explorations, policy pronouncements, convocations, presidential councils, congressionally supported studies, and state and national legislation, there is broad agreement on a number of points, many of which were considered precedent-shaking at the time of their resolution:

  • States, rather than local school districts or the federal government, should have the responsibility for identifying the standards — content and skills — students should attain;
  • States should take the lead in creating or acquiring the tests to measure student progress;
  • Standards and assessments should be challenging rather than minimal;
  • Progress toward proficiency is to be made by each identifiable subgroup (for example, those whose first language is not English or those at socioeconomic disadvantage) in a school;
  • Incentives should be available to increase the focus and efficiency of
    the system;
  • All parts of the system should work together to achieve the specified targets.

Easier said than done. The enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation is an attempt to clarify and strengthen the incentives for progress for all children. It requires the specification of targets for achievement growth and raises the number of grade levels that are tested annually. So far, the ramifications of the law are in dispute, with many districts reporting success based on test-score improvement while others complain of burdensome and intrusive regulations and high costs.


2005 The Regents of the University of California