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Time Machine: No Child Left Behind


Vox's Libby Nelson joins Matt and Dara on the first episode of the Weeds Time Machine: a visit to the past to review some now-forgotten chapter in policy history. This week, it's No Child Left Behind. Our hosts discuss the bipartisan consensus that existed at the outset of this policy, how everyone eventually turned on it, and the legacy it still leaves behind in our school systems today.


"The GOP's Plan to Take Education Policy Back to the Early 1990s" by Kevin Carey (Oct. 5, 2011; The New Republic)

"The scariest lesson of No Child Left Behind" by Libby Nelson (July 27, 2015; Vox)


Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com

Dara Lind (@DLind), Immigration Reporter, ProPublica

Libby Nelson (@libbyanelson), Deputy Policy Editor, Vox


Erikk Geannikis, Producer

Ness Smith-Savedoff, Engineer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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This episode is brought to you by Washington DC when you hear washington- and you probably think politics paperwork power lunches. But you have an experience DC. There's more museums per square miles in any place in the country is also where important decisions are made like which Michelin starred restaurant, to try. First, you know Washington now experience easy to plan. Your trip today Visit Washington, DOT, Org. I don't want them to have so much media attention on what MRS Palacio good for public as DARE Lynn, Foxtrot Coms. Let me know and we are going to do something a little special to hay and throughout the month of July, we are Calling it the weeds time machine and we're going to need your little boy ass, the boys.
We know it so that we wait we needs and we need some sound of pensions when we enter the time machine, so diplomas to travel into the past and consider some interesting, noteworthy policy debates that happened in the past before the time that any of us working as journalists. We will eventually go back to the misty days of the early twentieth century, but we're looking today at a sort of policy debate that happened pretty soon before I at least came to Washington in some ways the last big policy story that I missed and that came before Darin levies, time as well, but whose consequences shaped our lives in different ways, and that is no child left behind. So we will enter the weeds time machine and return to the year to them, thousand and think about the origins of education are for
always going on when what is this all about it? So it's a gift,
in no time left behind. In a sense, you have to go back to like the early eighties, but we're not gonna do much of that. So what we're looking at as George W Bush is running for office in as we get to sort of the policy debate and the political debate that become the law that becomes no child left behind. We have this sort of increased focus on specific aspects of education and what's going wrong in specific aspects of education, and we go from sort of this general american schools are not good enough and we're getting be internationally rhetoric of the early nineteen eightys to a narrower focus on achieving, as measured by taskforce and on the gaps in test scores between quite students, students of color and then also students with other kinds of setbacks such as disabilities, are learning English and what those gaps mean and whether they can be solved and said the world that creates no child left behind, which is ultimately a log requiring that kid's be tested every year in third, through eighth grades and once in high school. In reading and math, and imposes consequences on schools if students are not making enough progress on those tests, what we're looking answered have to begin with. Is this idea of closing at you? Ve met gaps and getting not only improving education across the board, but improving the education specifically of students who have been quoted, quote left behind in our school system, emulates inrushing, because in some ways it's like a kind of very left infused idea that we need to care a lot about inequality that we need to care lot about racial equality, but also class inequality, spatial inequality, disability other things like that. But I really like it locates these issues in the school system in a way that I think contemporary progressives wooden in the same
in a way right, and it says that, like we need to have no child left behind, that's like Joe Tribute bushes pivot to the center, but like the way we're going to have no child left behind is by doing stuff indicate twelve school system not by a universal child tax credit like Joe Biden, is trying to do like a massive investment in public housing. There's lots of ways you could determine to leave no child behind, but this is like bull a general egalitarian aspiration, and also this very spot fact, idea about schools, rate and theirs intellectual lineage here and there is the political any agenda. Both Super Morton, like the intellectual lineage, comes from this growing movement that actually started in the south and with governors who included Bill Clinton to sort of paying more attention to education and then too,
increased amount of like testing and accountability. Basically, because there was not until it well into the eighties away the you could look at a map or look at test scores and be like this is how these kids are doing on reading matter, state by state, and that goes from that to this idea of. So what are these overall tests? The test? You know you're, just looking at every school or every kid like? Who is that leaving out and are they being left out of? Any progress is being made and, as you say, I think that's actually an idea that we ve seen a lot, for example, an economic discourse about this year that looking at the overall numbers is not enough. We need to look at people who might be being left out of prosperity, but at the time this was really focus on education politically. This is all playing out in the context of George W Bush is to causing campaign the idea that Republicans need to close the gap on education, which is historically a really democratic issue. The Bush needs what's from women and he needs votes from people who hispanic specifically, and they really seized on. This is like this is the issue that sequences sees the Centre of America. You know I really pivot them to Bush. Had like one of the extraordinary things about. That's like it's not just like. Oh George, W Bush is Education Department had a specific idea about education and set out to sort of implementing. This was a huge deal. This was a huge deal in the campaign. This was a huge deal in Congress and this was like the focus of national policy on helping. So
the next generation and I think that's really where the huge amount of faith if that you see, and education as well as a difference maker, shows in a way that maybe now twenty years later looks a little naive way. I'd love to in a little bit more of a sense just because it seems in kind of certainly like
a post, great recession, world I've had so much trouble. Rabelais had around the idea that, like the consensus top issue, that Congress needed to address was education both because it's you know is often seen as more of a state or local issue than a federal issue, and also because, like bread and butter, issues like that will often be kind of nice to have things in public opinion polls, but they won't spring to the top in terms of urgency, and I realise that I know less about this than I thought I did as we ve been planning. This episode like how much of this was an actual feeling in showing up in public opinion polls, that education was the federal issue par excellence and how much was there, it is deliberate political move going on part of the Bush Republicans to say you are concerned about inequality. You are concerned about these kind of broader, less concrete concerns were using our education bill to address these other things that you said american needs to take care of savings
the time machine aspect comes into play, two thousand high, and I'm sorry I mean this is a big binding here. Do one was a different year in its? It was in the past, and people were different about there's no really fascinating Paul from summer two thousand wine. I knew what you think are extremely, port and issues facing America, and this is, I think, something that really like. As you're saying I like people always like, you can push polar Prod, Paul people and education. Lincoln, though always say you know, it's important need something that we need to do well. Education was the top issue in this pool. Above things like the whole list of issues is amazing. First, education, second, is Griffin drugs for older Americans. Third is energy conservation forth is a patient's bill of rights. Fifth is increased oil and gas production. Six. This price caps on electricity and seventh is raising the minimum wage and then, after that, you finally get the first lake, which is just wild
That is the two months before nine eleven and after that, you finally get the first national security issue, which has missile defence so yeah. This is like a different time in America. Is I think, a kind of the vital making here? Jewish point, though right I mean I do think the high salience given to the education prescription, drug patience but rights issues reflected political entrepreneurship on the part of the political parties, the usual Lynn Fabrics book. The message where'd. She talks about the challenge that Bush phased of running a presidential campaign in what was perceived, certainly at the beginning of his campaign to be a time of peace and prosperity. So it was. I will always he gonna do right, so he exploited The idea that the Clinton ministration with sleazy, that was like a big part of this campaign, was for honor and taking me to the White House, and he also wanted to stake out a claim to the center ground that did not involve
meant all compromises with republican Party interest group politics and precisely because federal education spending is not that high. You can propose who's, a meaningful increase, like percentage wise without actually spending that much money was consists with his tax cutting aspirations to say we're gonna spend more money on energy. A sham- and you should have frequently see this Rhonda Santas boosted teacher pay recently read this is like thing if your republic energy, to make like some concession to widely held progressive views to put more money into schools is something you can do, but then he peered it with this reform idea, right that, like the bureaucracy, He is not doing what it should be doing so,
The reason why you should elect a Republican to address this kind of progressive concern right that it's a sensible Republican will make schools better, right that I'm not gonna, be like a crazy. You mean spirited budget cutter, but I'm gonna be a hard. Nosed were former not just kind of give the union's whatever they want person, and there was this. The levy you become maybe say more about what this was. But there was this idea. The Texas had done something important and good the occasion when he was he was, unlike our modern presidential kid. its. He wasn't like a real estate. Guy or somebody who gave an incredible speech once at the convention. He was like the governor of a big state and part of the editor. This cafe- and we say that, like he, had done good things as governor and was gonna bring that good stuff to Washington, An education was a part of that narratives, yet there
strand of normalcy running through this whole thing that very odd from our advantage fight make one thing I would say first, that it wasn't crazy that this was the issue that he would seize on its Republican. There is a really see actually fairly strong bipartisan sort of reformist education tradition that was not necessarily supported like by them streets of the party that, like being a republican governor, especially in the south, who had some ideas on education, was lake. He wasn't the first one is that the long history and yes as mouth was sort of alluding to jeering bushes tat
governor there were these massive gains on taxes, his own state tests on reading and map, and especially for students in Houston, in particular, run by IRAN page who would go on to be education secretary, and there was this idea that there was this quota haute, Texas, miracle and education, that taxes had totally turned at schools around. It may or may not shock you that there have now been a lot of analyses of this to what degree this happened is not entirely established, but I would say it certainly fair to say that if you're looking at sort of national tested validate hours, there may have been some improvement. It was not as dramatic as the improvement that the Bush team counted, because it was part of the story that he cared a lot about education and it was his compassionate conservative issue or one of them. He was going to take us to the national level and is, as we are saying, it was a sort of quiet time in America and of politicians did have the ability to set the agenda on whether its prescription, drugs or education or oil and gas, whatever sort of he focused on, became what was pulled about because they're worth these giant undercurrents the politicians had to respond to. They were able to lead a little bit more on what issues they wanted to put out there. I mean that's true fer, you know MID two thousand one, but, as you have already alluded to levy lake in between the Bush campaign running on prioritizing what would become no child left behind and the bill actually crossing the president's desk. We had a nine eleven new so like you could absolutely see an alternate universe where that such all of the oxygen out of the room for an entire domestic agenda and then pushed became a wartime president for the rest of his time, and this fell by the wayside. Just like the long lamented failed, twenty one push for comprehensive immigration or for fell by the wayside, but that didn't happen, and I gather that not only did it not happen, but that actually nine eleven weirdly kind of helps no child left behind become a priority for Congress Yang Talkin
the congressional procedure on this very little of it, because it actually really interesting, indifferent. We're looking at a couple of it I think we're looking at a crucial moment in education policy, but I think you can argue are also looking at this interesting inflection point on domestic policy like big domestic policy priorities writ large in american history. So after that, you as an election, which was, I would see disputed, as you know, the nicest waited for that there was this immediate focus on getting something done on education as a way of cementing bushes. Basically illegitimate president, as somebody who get things done with Congress, who could pass a bill with overwhelming majorities, and they didn't interesting thing. They did not say ok, education, committee and here in the House and Education Committee in the Senate, which is normally how you would do a belike. That's like go forward into your thing. There is a sort of especial bipartisan group set up to negotiate and education doubts with his white, where, unlike summer, two thousand one big a kind of far there's some areas of agreement. There are some sticking points. The whole thing I think it would be unfair to say, was like on the verge of death, but it had certainly stalled out below that George W.
on nine eleven, is in Florida. Reading to children to talk about education. Famously said this pushes like still very much happening after nine eleven. There. A lot of pressure to show once again continuity and legitimacy of government and in my notes, what I have is John Vainer Pass. Anzio beer, the terrorists win, and I dont think it was late. Why that point? wasn't much less important than that. I mean the message was very much. It is important to pass a bill to show that America can govern that we haven't been disrupted. Do we can do a big unifying by partisan achievement? Hey we have. This thing does like seventy five percent of the way there and that sort of becomes the vehicle, and I two in two thousand thirteen. I talk to a lot of education, people who were there at the time, and they talk about how this was the sort of like magical time.
and everybody really cared about this at every became together and you take a step back and legal gap because they needed to be able to do something, and there is a lot of pressure and a lot of it was a really like high bi partisanship moment, and you end up with what is basically the lass dramatically by partisan legislative like big domestic policy legislation. Possibly ever I mean the margins are just like out of this over ninety votes in the senate- and there is a very weird like motley far right last- a handful of people against a bit. It is this, like centrist, I've heard it said yes, what we're gonna do is we're going to test kids and hold schools accountable. We're gonna gives more money and lake within like three years consensus behind this girl had completely fallen apart and it has continued to fall apart for a sort of the next decade and a half after that. So I didn't good time to take a break and then try to delve into the specifics. feels like you, don't over five hours in the day to get everything done. Might because you're missing out on three of them
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do you want to be the smartest fan at your watch party. Do you want to understand the game at a deeper level? Then you need to listen to and I fell university, a new weekly episode from the explanation and I feel sure, every Wednesday, our team of professors at any fell university. Teach you the finer points of which one crash course at a time, will break down the what how and why everything that went down that we subscribe. The explanation and up I'll show today and become the best fan. You can be So obviously, like is the big piece of legislation, and it says a lot of things but like broadly speaking, like what did the bill do because you know, whenever you have big legislation than you have backlash, there tend to be a lot of attention paid to like the most specifically backlash elements of it, but, like part of the point of the time she and is like how did it seem at the time when what changes did they make education policy?
so that there is a couple of things there is an overall increase theirs. Ten point three billion dollar increase, which is not a huge income, It is an increase, especially in the context of the time for education, funding and peered, wish that there is a requirement that schools test students every from third the eighth grade and reading in math and ones in high school, and then there is this idea that all students and specific sub groups of students need to be making progress towards the big overall goal in the big overall goal. There is, I would say, reading sort of contemporary sources. The way we look at this now is like this goal with Super naive, and they were always by change. It is actually not clear that that is the case at the time by the goal was like by twenty fourteen. Every student in America will be proficient in reading and proficient in, and it says a lot that were like a law that was never gonna happen via you. No appetite
There is one school of thought that, like oh, of course, we're going to adjust, these goals were going to be authorized. The law were going to adjust, the goals will give schools more time. There is another actually quite optimistic strain that, as I know, this is really possible. Like people out there saying we're gonna do this switch is really interesting. To me, it is viewed. Now is a symbolic goal, but at the time at least in some quarters that was taken very very literally. The idea that you needed to be testing or the you needed to be making progress towards a goal was actually not new. There's a pretty long history that had at that point already gone back about a decade. The idea that was new and no child left behind and then but later became. The focus of the controversy was the idea of accountability and another way to say accountability is consequences. There would be some kind of consequences for schools that we're not making quote unquote adequate early progress toward this overall goal. The other thing that really different here is this idea of sub groups: interracial equity you're, not just responsible for your school stores, overall you're responsible for his students of color for students with disabilities for students with limited english proficiency. I believe that is the technical term that they use. Students were learning English on the idea that those are students who could be sort of flailing but subsumed in overall improvements. You have to make sure they are improving as well. You know
in some ways the equity focus set. The stage age for the backlash, because the Classic Guenaud public opinion finding about american public Education is that people have a lot of concern about public education in America, but a lot of satisfaction with their school that their child a tens in one a woman of the equity nails- and I know that this was very important to the to the Democrats working on the bed, I wish to say that work, just because you are a white middle class person. Living in suburb, where You feel, like you moved out here, for the good schools and the schools are good and the kids who are like your kid are going to college. I will buy. The school systems like that are not exempted from scrutiny of what they are doing, that they need to be making adequately yearly progress toward universal proficiency,
were sub groups for school and recipients for english language, learners for african american kids, weight and big suburban school districts that are pretty white and pretty affluent have liked. Non zero numbers of children falling into those groups, and the pressure was really are. If you did take that twenty fourteen gall, literally was tough. Every school district in America was being asked to meet. A much higher bar than the bar of like do the people go to the squall, mostly feel it's ok, Yes, and now it was totally tightly to title why the impact and I've Harvard its walls is much much greater. At the same time, most school there in districts there in states like the mechanisms, are not like elegant. We know we're gonna go granular at the school level on who has to test and who they have to test. So yes, ultimately lake, it ends up implemented on a much wider basis rage. So I was like a little bit too old for me, and people by age to be
impacted by this, but I know my cousins given in the suburbs go into the good schools bubble by, but their parents came to be very concerned about the volume of testing that was happening and so on and so forth, and I mean I was saying it's like look like there's a reason there doing. That's right that, like it's, an equity concern right the like you just kind of say. Well, you know, like the average student in affluent suburbs, is doing fine. That's his no question to be asked about what's happening and you also can't say, like Y know, your parents went to college, so you don't need to take the task, right, like it would be totally unfair to like neglect, poor kids, students of color english language, learners, things like that and subsume them under some broad average. And so I guess that means you know. Everybody's gotta take the tests, but that's not the same as like the sort of normal publics,
if that, like some schools, someplace else, maybe he had trouble and needs a big changes, Sure I mean you see that view basically across the board, a drill, and it goes through what I mean. This is like the most consistent finding an education pulling is like a lot of We are concerned about the abstract idea of these schools, but the share that say that their school is bad is usually like twenty percent or less in two thousand wines or as the bills being negotiated. Fifty one percent of adults and their neighborhood, who was an air a b and
eighteen percent. It was said it was a deer and ass, so you're, lucky, I'm even just beyond sort of the lake quota, who really good schools. Type of places like people have it's a local institution and people have faith in the local institution will be losing faith in the national one. But the testing backlash is really pretty real and pretty a media and can be seen kind of across the board. I mean it's attracts the implementation of no child left behind early closely exciting. As we look at backlash, there's two factors: there's the schools where there actually are consequences at most people like their schools and don't necessarily want there to be consequences. They got someone to scale up and severity, so you start with lake mandatory tutoring and support services, and most people think that that is a good idea. I give your students aren't doing well, you should be like helping them. It scaled up something that is called like a restructuring which could be anything from fire the principal firing all of the teacher is turning. everybody out of the building, turning it over to a charter school and having it turned into a charter school, that's kind If the lake there's no way
penalty under anti I'll, be, but that's as close as it as it usually gets. People don't like that, like that is another really consistent. Finding people like their school of big dont, want to close. They don't want them to replace like people, sometimes don't like their schools and still don't want them closed, said that kind level that He is not its imposed for sure I mean it's imposed on thousands of schools with their thousands and thousands thousands of schools in America. so it's not like every other school as being shut down. Does a hundred thirty thousand schools in America? Thank you. I meant you look it up and I did it in twenty. Fourteen the writing about five thousand in that last structure. Like is not a zero number, but it's not a huge number either that there are undergoing that penalty. The euro is an interesting one of these rights, as I think, if you ask people in the abstract, ok are five percent of schools. Unacceptably, bad luck that sells a plausible estimate. This perfectly consistent with the like most
but like their squaws, must be won. Some concerns about the national situation, but then you know it: become an issue read so the school. My senator ends in its across the street from my house you, it was targeted for closure some years ago, and you know it was. They were not making adequate yearly progress. They were falling into one of the high consequences belts also Dc Ps at that time had sort of a long term trajectory of falling in Rome, and so No, there was a case just based on the numbers for saying we're: gonna, we don't need a school at this location. The kids who are in this catchment area can go elsewhere. The other schools that are sort of vaguely nearby are doing better on their ip goals so we're gonna just shut the school now, and people didn't one that I don't know like they would run into
the school there was close to the house. There were alumni of the school living in the neighborhood. There was a parentage organization that was invested it in the school and you know eventually like they didn't close. It did bring in a new principle, and you know like now the scores her up. And everybody everybody loves the school and what s interesting is you can sort of look at it? Two ways right. You can say: ok like this was the backlash like this was the problem. They wanted to shut down schools, but people love their scope, but you can also say that look the pressure to do something the reason that they made, they ultimately didn't shut the school down, but they did make some fairly fundamental changes that now most people think where changes fur for the better right, and that was the the animated, idea on some level. Was you can't just say what luck we're gonna, just bringing
or tutors forever, like it's close, really bad. Something should happen, and I both see that that didn't really like worked out with the public but he'd like it still feels career, to me as an analysis of the situation since like people are wrong to, like everybody, thinks local school is above average, but like that's not true, like logically or empirically, or anything else, I don't know what you want in a society that everyone thinks there schools above average, but I would say that it's probably true that those who don't think there's above average think that the problem is insufficient. In recent, says, and that their school is flexible and that the reason that President Bush What about the soft bigotry and low acts of low expectations like in this context is super relevant here ray. On the one hand, you have compassion to conservative, saying we shouldn't just accept that students who are already worse off, who already have your chances in life, are just going to be failed by our public schools. But then you know that
public opinion polls where people say that schools are failing, but their school is doing, ok can also be read to a certain extent as people saying well, yeah, I've gotten my kids out by you need to burn the rest of the system. Down that there's nothing left there that's worth. While you know some a kind of like an education version of White fly, and so it does make me that once you we are looking at the prospect of like a particular school getting closed down, you're going to be mobilizing a bunch of people who might not have loved their school and might love the idea of reform, but didn't necessarily think that that reform is going to take the form of lake shut their we'll down was going to say this school is unfixed able and Libya wondering this kind of tension between what it takes to improve a school and like whether more money is. There is in fact the right answer. This was also one of the kind of paradoxes events he'll be implementation, right that, like the bill, was past largely on the thinking that something other than funding was needed, but also there was a big title: when funding chunk, there was a fine
chunk. But the conventional wisdom at the time was very much. The money was not the problem in education that we did I'd increasing spending, and we still have you the human gaps. There has now been a pretty robust research that is like actually increasing spending is the reason and the achievement gaps narrowed for a while and then stopped narrowing, or at least was a much bigger contributor than people realised that I think lake. When we think about these. Tens of how people feel about their schools and how they feel about no child left behind a lot. This just comes down to the testing. I mean what you see in the polling from the time is like this framed very much eyes. The schools result on one test is going to decide whether it lives or dies and that's a little exaggerated, unlike a couple of fronts, depending on how you can consider a restructure hotel, homers, a closer look at it in a restructure, their they school still bear it. It just may not be these school that you have a tie to bite. What you see is a lot of the public thinks like tests are not how we have whether or not the schools successful pudding
Many states on this one test is unfair and I think that is where you sort of CIA, uniting in the backlash of parents who might actually even agree that their school is not the best or who agree overall but like there are some concerns with the wire you seeing my kids all the time. My school is good in this is making it worse mentality, another sort of uniting around the idea. The test is the wrong mechanism. And the testing really becomes the focus of the backlash. and has continued to be the focus of the backlash. I think you ought to talk about the union politics here. Wake is usually a very good friend of mine from from college You know she went in to teach her America after that, and then, after tea obey sorted became. You know and education diminish. Greater type person, and she was really for a while, like up like a school assassin Louisiana and in Massachusetts. You know who would come in for drastic restructuring sway
including at one point like enlargements. I think they basically closed. All of the public schools and reopen them has as charter but would she would say right? Is that, like from the parents point of view when people say like, I don't want my school to go away, they me and like the building, they mean like their favor teacher there and the playground and its role as a community institution that, like they don't want a nuclear bomb to fall on the school right, but that, like the school, was still there, right like if you were a student enlarged producers- and he wanted you- kids, go to elementary school middle school. High school, like all of those schools, still existed, that what was happening in the restructure that people didn't like is it the personnel was changing and the people whose job it is is too like represent the personnel they had an interest.
in exaggerating what this meant for you, the customer, it was very dramatic to them the provider right there everybody had it's only been true that, like all the teachers got fired and this restructuring, but everybody had to reapply for their old job, essentially which, you can totally understand like people at any employer, I've ever heard of with hate it, if new management king pin it was like a rescue reapply for Europe's job now and get out of ten percent of you aren't gonna, get it and we're gonna wouldn't change how things work, but that's not like the same thing as like the government is bulldozing the schools. And then he gets linked to this idea that, like people start using the freeze, high stakes. Testing constantly right, as if like what's gonna happen, is like like what we like. How high word
takes ever in this testing right. The stakes where it were genuinely pretty high compared to the states that there had been previously that the stakes are not necessarily as high as you might. You know when you look at this list of consequences is like ok. This is like this is a long process that you're going before you get to anybody losing their job, and I would say they were not telling people ok, The first stakes is it of the kids? Do bad on the test? They're gonna get extra tutors right like The reason this was able to command consensus in the legislative back room is that The consequences are fairly moderate, great and blood. Clearly beneficial at the kind of early stage and the idea of the escalating consequences is not only where you kids doing bad on the tests, but then, even when we bring the tutors the extra resources in their not doing any better.
so now we're getting like frustrated with you and part of part of the backlash too. That is just like annoyance. At the testing. Part of the backlash. That, though, is you know like effective politics on the part of, teachers who had you know, extrinsic reasons not to like this framework. I'm who pocketed the you know you could take the gains in funding and push for other changes in they things going forward and who I think successfully elevated, people's level of anxiety around what this testing meant sort of beyond is actually in the four corners of the bill like when we look I found this era isn't gets not true. The like in the sea of he era like huge swathes of the american school system were shut down, like none of that ever happened yet
when we talk about, I mean that the rule of the union's enneads he'll be itself has actually really fascinating. This was a compromise with which, initially the union's were especially on the American Federation of teachers were more or less initially onboard. They there was any. This came out of a sort of it a focus on standards and accountability that, after he had been playing ball with the idea that, like you know so, avatar no child left behind was passed. The big enemy, the progressive and liberals were fighting against, and Democrats are fighting against was vouchers, and it was a huge victory that there was not a significant voucher component in the bill and said that up. I'll, just sort of oriented gray. The political debate was because there is no huge voucher component in the Bell vouchers. out of the federal conversation like very quickly after that, and so we sort of already are getting a realignment, and by two thousand three or four, which is actually basically The first year of the law is being implemented, the any a which was are always kind of the more straight
anti and she'll be of the two unions is like full on against it A key is starting to trend that way, unlike within it, five years? They are both fully like this law is bad. We thought it would come with more financial support and more funding than an ultimately did. The focus on hosting is horrible and, like I think to think about you is this that most parents have for learning about their schools, is teachers in future. Heat the law in Europe like seeing like in immediate compensatory, like woe, everybody's test scores went up twenty five points in the first year. The flaws amazing, which is not an education, works. The idea it's gonna remain popular is its is basically like. That's that's. A very tough Hilda Climb Kevin, hurry, whose education policy expert he may have been in the past in some way wrote inserted
twilight events he'll, be that it had all of the downsides of being viewed as a punitive, your coney and antitrust law, and none of the objectives that it, your coney in LA might have enforcing actual changes, and so at it from a reform, this perspective and ended up with the worst of both worlds it's kind of where we are as the Bush administration in general kind of starts. to sour. In that, oh five or six or seven ranges, teachers have fully turned against this law and the public a sort of is coming along with them. That seems like a good play. For us to take another break because really in a sense, these are all kind of using the white papers of legislative text. This all weeds, damaging concept. We are not doing or our white paper this episode, but will instead continue to talk about the legacy of anchovy. So, ok, I got big damn question you can ask about this site. Did this work I Obviously not every student is proficient in reading and math, but did things improve Vikas? Was this good?
so this is where this has a really I'm is buying answer, which is probably really what went wrong with no child left behind is like yeah, a little bit in some ways, for some students certainly not is dramatically as it is opposed to, and I think it actually worth talking quickly here about expectations and public expectations of the law. When not, left behind was past. Most in sky that their schools, would be able to reach the hundred percent proficiency marked by twenty thirteen, forty in which is just a good reminder to me that lake I find that laughably naive and I think parliament, some policy makers at the time did, but like people really believe this was possible, this did not happen instead, you know it. We lived on the sort of more and more schools missing the goal so that part Lake literally. On that part, total failure did not happen. Shocked shock
everyone scores on the sort of national assessments that are not built to measure whether a policy is working but end up being sort of the benchmarks that we look. I can t you just sort of modestly increase in some states the racial you ve met gap closed again and fairly modestly on which means that, in a blackened hispanic students were making faster progress than white students on those ass, the sum of the schools facing on a very like, more micro school level, the schools facing the most punitive consequences in he's is actually did improve from that. From that perspective, it emulating Matt what you're talking about with with your son schools, actually like not only the best he's, but something that actually did happen is that there were schools that faced the face sort of the worst possible consequences and ultimately did improved somewhat as a concept. It is when they think
You also have to think and talk a little bit about the idea that this system was being game which was really widespread. The idea was widespread. It is unclear how widespread the gaming was that everybody was cheating on these tasks, that students were being kept back out of the grades where they were tested are were being like sort of shunted off into other sub groups whether or not that actually happened on a stupor super widespread scale. What we have is a lot of anecdotes that also sort of contributed to the overall. Option that if there were any improvements, it was because people are cheating these tests are bad, and so, even though we did see some modest improvements in some places, we didn't see what was promised and their wives for people who are sort of against the idea of testing to begin with a really easy latest discount what was happening there so I guess The other way to ask this question is given that we are now in a kind of post and see L B, like policy and political context has
ending of the UN's you'll, be era shown any kind of difference in how schools are achieving. You know, did getting rid of all of these onerous things, make it easier for schools to successfully teach their students. So what we really entered now, I think, is a period of some of stasis. One reason that it's hard to figure out how much no child left behind Helped is idea of testing standards and accountability actually predates no child left behind in some states by like a decade and the gradual improvement of scores. The gradual closing of gaps also predates no child left behind. So there is no link if you're looking at the graph there's no like obvious no shelter. In brief point where it's like, while I was in fourth graders or way better reading than different worth raiders were five years ago. There also is, if you look at what happened since about oh nine: there and a total flat lining more or less. In some cases, even a slight fall in score. So there are a lot of reason for this? The way these
work: is they don't? You know they don't test? He was a fourth greater and then as a fifth greater, and it is a six greater like sometimes work that way, but the national tasks that the people look at to say, like Howard Schools, doing does so are, we can really say is like this group with greater is, is better or worse at this than a different group or fourth graders was several years ago, and there could be a lot of reasons for that by it is interesting that we sort of had a federal and state era of doing a lot of stuff to try to improve and we saw improvements. And then we had a leg briefer Obama era. Continuing to do a lot of stuff, arguably even more stuff, with simple, mining, and we have now entered an era of much more hands off, like almost Nuttall, very pre. No child left behind status quo. Early. Ninety nine ease education and arguably the city.
Level, I would say even pre. Ninety ninety, in terms of how invested states are in this idea of like improving their schools on in their schools, results on tasks, and we have seen as a result a flat lightning. And so it's hard to say exactly what causing it, but it certainly. You can certainly say that lake, removing the no child left behind it in twenty fifteen. When they ultimately were, has not led to Lake necessarily an explosion of super creative teaching and in a man, of learning gains and that have shown up in any any foreseeable way, and I do think that it it to some extent, lays the groundwork for some of the the big fight now about what people have decided. They want to call critic raced the early in schools. None too wrecked sense. But it's like there were Is this this, like other idea right? That was both that you had to narrow the curriculum right,
like, if you're gonna be judged purely on people's reading. In now scores it incentivize, a heavy. And Bush said that, as you know, is like people say, while teaches you just gonna teach to the test, I think the way you do, that is to teach Reading in mass tried anyway you don't you was. It was a genuine, I think, like disagreement of by broad view, is that, like you, people criticise this saying what was going to narrow the focus on what you teach and he accepted that that might have been a consequence, but that it was good and that the kind of like back to basics was a desire
I'll come, and then also, though, you have an explosion of interest in Look Arthur systemic social issues that are what's behind these disparities like? Is it reasonable to keep kind of turning up the heat on K? Twelve schools, as like the locusts of social justice and a big line of thought, you know in education, schools was too, like argue very forcefully. No they're, like that's, not fair, that that is not. You know a reasonable, like diagnosis of inequality in America and that you know we need too. We need to talk about like how society functions and not just how schools and what's interesting, though, is that, like the scores, really did why why, after the strike
may have reached like a more sophisticated understanding of like the nature of inequality in american life, though you didn't do was like a dress that inequality, to some other method ride like it would be cool if the story was, you know, after twenty forty and we like pivoted to focusing on you, know housing and health care and wraparound services, and that really works super well. Instead, we I think, like pivoted conceptually. like a broader understanding of the sources of inequality, but we did not like in practice or at least in a clearly measurable way like achieve positive results, from any of the year. I would say I've been. There is one thing I should say about scores outlining before we move on which there is a strong case that, because we're looking at different groups of students, one thing that's happened is the students were looking at, have changed the scores, our compositional effect, so the whole Its fundamental premise of no child left behind was that white students are doing better than you.
Color and then students for learning English and we have seen a shift in the school systems, are the white students are less represented than they were in two thousand and the students where there are concerned that they were doing as well have made up a greater point. In time we are being super effective, a closing achievement gaps there. Wouldn't you know you wouldn't be saying this compositional fact, so it may not be. Quite Dire is flat. Lighting makes it sounds bids. You know, I think it certainly for it is. They were not being like a vast vast. movement there has been on the left, so there are many couples pivots away from the idea that we should be improving schools at all, unlike an under national level, as a major focus of national policy, the right never like, no tell us We didn't really have time to get into that's what they turned against it, also like as soon as is soon as peoples, and turning and running like they were like. This is too much federal intrusion, and that was really quite a lot of them believe to begin with, the left, certainly pivot back to first of all, the idea that funding matters- and then we ve had a point where
The line the George W Bush used and their Obama used quite frequently as well as that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and I think it's really telling that when Humph said that in twenty seventeen bunch of news outlets basically had to run story. Saying like this, isn't a new and terrible idea. The trump thought up. This is actually like a really standard rhetoric on asian- and I think it actually does down while that twenty twenty one to say education, as these are worried that you have our time- and I think that's the divine great things on one hand you haven't education apartment. You have a lot of whose job it is to improve education on the other hand, you have the broader idea of public. policy and make it occasion, the number one thing that we can be doing Sue. He racial equality or achieve greater opportunity or improve the economy which we have already talked about, but is also like. I always a huge driving force. Personal I am fascinated to see if the child tax credits sticks around what effect we're going to
and has scores, because I think we are about to enter a real fascinating test case for this lake, basically alternate theory that lake poverty is the problem. I think this is also where that you have the difference between like what should a president be doing and Lake should the education department. We doing, I think, there's a guy between like yes, like we, continue to make sure schools improve, because that's important and like improving schools should be our number wine priority. I think that's roosting sort of the pivot away from this and back toward the idea that their greater sources of inequality- and there are bigger problems in America than sort of eighth grade, math escorts. May eminent You just kind of diet a lot of the problem with any post and shall be federal. Education policy, though right, is that if genius events he'll be was to you
a fairly low funding left to say we are doing something on this issue that everyone agrees is important and were doing it with a frame that is going to help the least among us, and then that ends up not be being a consensus opinion that that's the right approach. You end up kind of inevitably going into well, we need more resources, whether those are being deployed to education, or you know, just u alleviate economic inequality which going to raise an ideological or just like in group. Outgrew reaction of. Why is my money going to this other thing or the other Logical reaction of the government got into education policy where it wasn't supposed to be to begin with and now It's trying to use it as a lever to grow government its it is a little hard to understand. Why a good lane for federal education policy would be now that this idea that the feds government, provides the standards and gives states
tools to get their systems of departure- and then you know, these are the ones kind of doing the curricular legwork has fallen apart. What I you think they're. So many there was so many moving pieces to this consensus. It like involved a lot of contentious ideas that it can fall apart in a lot of different ways that I think we we now don't have a consensus on weight and select one. Thing is: what was the focus on gaps and inequality, misguided versus just to focus on levels right like? Should we expect some kind of you know continuous improvement? As I say it, Toyota separate from the question of like. Is it reasonable to say, because I got no right, it's like if your parents don't speak English, and there maybe not even literate in Spanish, like of course on average you're gonna struggle with reading.
I mean you know like I will. What are the schools was do about that? On the other hand, they could do a better or worse job of teaching meaningless language earners then. The other thing is look. Is this resources. Issue in the sense that we need to focus more on equalising the funding across the school which I think that some evidence for all, are we saying this is like not even about schooling at all, in which case it would be a big mistake to like waste a lot of political capital and equalising school dig deep. What you're saying is the schools are significant and that, like what we really need to be doing is addressing poverty rate, something else right. So there's like this a big beauty there around like what are you trying to say resources critique and then you know, Obama took this whole thing into a different space, with, like this is much more specific focus on,
idea of firing, teachers, which I think in retrospect was like more clearly misguided, then the earlier initiative that the like suppressed premise. of what Obama did was that there was some kind of like Reserve Army of qualified teachers. That principles were chomping the bit to higher, only somebody would wage like a brutal political fight to let them dismissed. or teachers, but like Obama, one that fight almost nothing happened as a result of it, because principles hey vacancies, it turns out like there is not a large supply of features like available to go. Do this, particularly not in the like tougher schools that have more problems and its now, I think really hard two like reboot, a conversation about like teacher like human capital type
choose, because Obama like poison, the waters on it, but even in retrospect, looks to me like which, moreover, like a supply side issue, it's like what Would you do till? I get more people interested in teacher training programmes or to make those programmes be better or to somehow like creators. two ways in which it was like a bounty of like well qualified people to do this. Work and that was not in the original no child left behind that was like there was a thousand nine, like add, on concept that it became this like black hole. I think of of education, like of k, twelve education, controversy, and it didn't really amount to much yeah. I think it's hard to talk, but we should deal with the waning days. No child left behind with the Obama administration in particular did with that, because I think that spending so crucial not to like what the lie did to how we understand it into how we proceed. Education reform, national, the behind
was by the time about always an office scene is like such a problem and so punitive there. either then, like even offer a bunch more money, one thing they did to get states to change their education policy was just say like we will waive parts of no child left behind for you. If you do other stuff that we want and so it became this incredible like not even carried the carrot wishes like a lack of a stick to get there to change education. Policies and a lot of those were much more focused on testing. So there is this idea of teacher evaluations and that lake, if no child left behind like and up the dial and testing. Like teacher evaluations turned it up again and made them much more punitive for individual teachers who had like a good reason to be like what is happening here. Why am I gonna be evaluated unless, at the same time, like the seeds of like the political consensus, destruction were always there? It was a super fragile consensus about specific moment of the Democratic Party as specific moment at a specific election with I eagerly deep philosophical commitments on either side to this lake
this idea that should already kind of evaporated, but the people who had come up in the no child left behind world we're still the p who were like very influential in running education policy, know each other, did some of the damage. I think in retrospect it's the Obama administration, courts, the earth and sort of God at the point where, like going back, this is really differ, we haven't even got into the common core, we get your whole episode, I'm a common core, but I would say on the teacher question an interesting thing to think about here, is teach for America, which was initially premised on the idea that there weren't enough good teachers, and then the answer to getting good teachers as to Lake, give college kids from high from high Merci School, like six weeks of training and entering the moors teach for America, has actually pay
did in kind of an interesting way to be more focused on like sustainable careers and education, and I think it's just a real. It's like an you, could sort of like see how the discourse evolves from like. Ok, what we need to do is get rid of these unqualified teachers and bring in other teachers are now these, like. These teachers are also unqualified that just like a very different way than the previous teachers were, and then this, like underling issue of like how do we improve teachers, whether that's attracting people here Therefore, you know work were of higher academic caliber to the profession in the first place, or giving them more training or more like sustainable support like we solely haven't made much progress on a really depressing lesson of no child left behind is thy didn't have like a decade of educational policy, experimentation, unlike rigorous testing, to see what was working and we come out of it with like a great list of lake. Here's what works?
and wondered I'm interested in seeing this fall is like. Do we learn anything from this postponed Emmett period about how you catch kids up quickly, because that is what the thing that no child left behind wanted to do, and we have still not figured out really. How did you at scale sad That would also interesting. I know I wish they had, like, moreover, abide upper ending here. I do want to say what they were. Gordo did like one thing that hubs of legal, more ideological level right is it. as a result of people not liking various aspects of no child left behind you start getting. Some people were very geared up in this light. Conceptual critique of testing which now means it's like, not totally obvious to me that we wall like ever get clear consensus uneven like like what like what happened in the past
or you know, were things that were attempted in catch up. You know like good or not right, because part of the no child left behind consensus was that looking at what was happening with nape scores was like informative, an important thing to do in life. and I'm not sure in the modern world that, like we have even that level of consensus in which we could like evaluate This is why I mean it's part of the reason for this move back to a sort of hyper decentralization of what's going on is that you know, I don't think anybody loves standard as tests, but the hope, point of like standardizing faces is so you can do comparisons across time and space
And if you decide you don't like that, you your left with local control, because people get directly observe what is happening and decide if they like it or not, and sort of adjust. Course. Concurrently. That, like you, can't do like studies and like try to say, oh you know, what's happening here is good was happening. There is bad unless you're you're giving people standard tests the domain, because I don't know I mean That'S- that's just life yeah testing is still required without, like states have to submit their own accountability plan and Kincaid to state what they white like they're like this hasn't totally evaporated, but we are sort of back where we were almost exactly pre. No child left behind, which is like you gotta do some testing it seems important to be able to compare across his to cross deeds of life through schools are good and whose goals are bad. If we can't really because the state Hussar orally different, which you know, This is still an issue, but I
It's almost like some is bigger than that, like a question that had it drove me away from from the education beat, is like what're schools for, and The rationale for a national education policy is lake. If we don't have, rules? We're gonna fall behind economically, and this was lake leave name in the eighties. that led to the panic that led to all this eventually in the first place, exemplary gap, they can anyone than they were like our schools are terrible. You know, eighteen years later we had like the economy the early nineties, think we haven't even like School supposed to do is like a very philosophical question, that people are spending a lot of time answering, but It's a reason that, like we can agree on how make them better or even if we should make them better, because it's like better for whom and to what and I'm invitingly This kind of a pendulum swings between holistic way, we should be improving the child in approving what we teach, unlike many I'm standards of like no, it's supersaver, important kids, retinue math well and basically
like a hundred years and things when you makin for it. So I would bet that, unlike ten to fifteen years, we get another round of this. In some capacity. I have no idea what that looks like Libya have nightmares about their quest, I was in college. I did my debate senior thesis and it was like related to some some questions on education, but very abstract philosophy, staff and I am presenting an and Christine Course guards on committee inches bat just tell me like what schools, even for and I had no answer you and the american people, both man. It's that's a very reliable content story about a Harvard Pieces presentation and yes, I agree it is very difficult to address these policies civics when airport. Nobody is really sure like globe. We're trying to do here at all or why any. Presumably, we will soon have a panic about like China and Math score system
right, yeah, I think I'd me. I really the ground like we're due for around it as its gonna be about China and it's gonna be in the next ten years. Like it, it's going all happening. There will be some. We didn't talk about Sputnik, but like we'll be some Chinese. Sputnik right everyone dislike of shit. They did something that was it. Passive, and now we are worried about mass. So So this is actually question that I have is like. I would say. If there's one thing I ve learned from the past year, and also from like five to ten years policy journalism, Americans are way more impervious to make another country did something better than we did, then I think I wanted the discourse assumes. You know yes, like maybe of China, gets tomorrow's first there we'll be alike, are we now using math right, so that we didn't get tomorrow's first. That lake,
can't even know anymore? I mean I, you know it's everything is like their outgoing US untouched, like that's already happening with a lot of countries, some curiously, what the thing is. The brings this back into the discourse is clearly not like they control the pandemic. I well. While we wait for China, but, as you know at this been a great sort of fun experiment at thanks so much Libya for joining us. I think it's always for sponsors. Producer action I kiss at which will be back on Friday, the weeds time machine back next Tuesday.
Transcript generated on 2021-08-05.