Book Review

NCLB Meets School Realities

by Gail L. Sunderman, James S. Kim and Gary Orfield, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2005, 148 pp. with index, $29.95 softcover

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which most refer to as NCLB, has been controversial from its inception. Its supporters believe NCLB will lead to a transformation of education. Its critics believe it to be a scheme to destroy public education.

In their new book, NCLB Meets School Realities, author Gail Sunderman, a research associate at Harvard University, James S. Kim, an assistant professor at the University of California at Irvine, and Gary Orfield, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, use both qualitative and quantitative data. They interviewed various federal and state officials who were involved with formulating NCLB and made site visits to 11 school districts in six states.

Supporters of NCLB praise the law’s requirements as accountability, not control, while opponents point out that requiring specific educational outcomes with high stakes attached is an important form of control. The authors demonstrate that test-driven accountability causes most schools to be pushed into teaching about subjects to be tested.

In addition, the adequate yearly progress requirement, they claim, “undercuts the capacity of educators to make needed changes.” It also leads to a strange situation whereby acquiring achievement levels in one state is a success, but in another state, schools are “punished” for attaining the same levels of achievement.

Reviewed by William J. Leary, professor of education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.