The Perverse Incentives of the No Child Left Behind Act
51 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2003
The No Child Left Behind Act, perhaps the most important federal education law in our nation's history, is designed to boost achievement levels of all students and to close the achievement gap among students from different backgrounds. This article explains how the Act creates perverse incentives that work against the achievement of the Act's laudable goals, and it argues that these perverse incentives are an unavoidable aspect of any test-based accountability system that focuses on absolute achievement levels. It goes on to suggest some possible responses to the flaws in the Act, and it concludes with some tentative observations about the proper role of the federal government in education law and policy.
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