Even if Secretary Spellings were right that NCLB is 99.9% pure, it still would not be the formula for what ails American education.
The current debate over NCLB overlooks a critical problem: Nothing the administration does under NCLB will ensure the law’s promise that every child will be proficient in reading and math by 2014. For reasons unrelated to the law’s merit, NCLB is simply not up to the task. Something far more profound and transformative must happen for American education to offer every child the opportunity to succeed.
The deeper problem is the existing institutional architecture of American public education. No Child Left Behind erects an accountability system atop the status quo and requires states to provide families with options when schools fail. But public education governance, structure, finance, management and politics remain intact.
Here is the heart of the problem: American public education — because of the way it is structured, administered, funded and understood by parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers — is incapable of delivering on the promises of NCLB. The root of the problem isn’t in the law; it’s in the American education system. It can’t get there from here.