How NCLB has Affected the Practice of School District Superintendents
Since the mid-1960s, the state and federal governments have increased their intervention and scope of control over American schooling. Educational reforms such as higher standards, testing, and accountability seek to improve student achievement through tightened centralized control and more eﬀective structures. Within the past 40 years, local control over America’s schools has eroded, while at the same time, the federal and state governments exert ever-greater control over the educational process and outcomes (Wirt & Kirst, 2005). The enthusiasm among state and national leaders for greater levels of accountability and high-stakes testing has become part and parcel of election campaigns, sound bites, and funding streams. Federal and state policy makers have concluded, rightly or wrongly, that schools are in crisis and that one option for addressing this situation is reliance on federal mandates oriented at increasing educational outputs, especially those measured by standardized tests (Kowalski, 2006). Student achievement and closing the achievement gap have become the political coin-of-the-realm and powerfully mandated external pressures for educational accountability and school improvement have become the political tools of choice (Petersen & Young, 2004). In particular, the revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (also known as the No Child Left Behind [NCLB] Act of 2001-Public Law 107-110) has sweeping implications for those who work in public education. As the newest incarnation of the ESEA, NCLB has expanded the federal role in education and become a focal point of education policy. The legislation also sets in place requirements that reach into virtually every public school classroom in America. NCLB seeks to ensure that all American students are proﬁcient in math, reading, and science by 2014. NCLB represents a signiﬁcant departure from past practice. Overriding two centuries of state primacy in K-12 education, the federal government requires that academic performance lead to concrete consequences for schools-and that children in inadequate schools have the opportunity to seek assistance or move elsewhere (Hess & Finn, 2004).