Statement on the 20th Anniversary of NCLB

Press Releases

January 8, 2022

On the 20th anniversary of the signing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Charles Barone, vice president for K-12 education at Education Reform Now, who was the lead staff negotiator on NCLB for House Democrats under former top Education Committee Democrat Rep. George Miller (D-CA) during the passage of NCLB, issued the following statement reflecting on the legacy of the law and its continued lessons:

“The 2001 passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) 20 years ago marked a turning point in the history of federal involvement in American education by explicitly connecting student outcomes—particularly among historically underserved students—with the federal dollars invested in education. While there was much NCLB did not get right—particularly the rigidity and prescriptiveness of the law—it also brought about lasting changes to the way policymakers collect information and hold states and schools accountable for serving all students.

Part of NCLB’s lasting legacy includes, for the first time, requiring statewide, annual assessments and the disaggregation of scores by student subgroups to shine a light on opportunity gaps—many of which were masked by aggregating reporting. The law also marked the first time that schools would be held accountable for demonstrably closing these gaps and ensuring students met grade-level expectations.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced NCLB in 2015 as the newest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, maintained the critical guardrails for equity established under NCLB, while also empowering states with greater autonomy and flexibility to determine how to best support their districts and schools to better serve students. NCLB codified 50 years of education reform efforts and ideals—beginning with the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education—into one federal statute and provided a first draft for how our nation can better target resources to serve the very students whom we have historically failed.”


About Education Reform Now
Education Reform Now (ERN) is a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that promotes increased resources and innovative reforms in K-16 public education, particularly for students of color and students from low-income families. We seek forward progress in public education—at the federal, state, and local level—developing and advocating for new, bold ideas and mutually reinforcing policies in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.