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Federal Education Programs » Rethinking the Federal Role » Compendium of Key Studies of the NCLB Act

During the coming months, the Congress and Administration are likely to make important decisions about the federal role in elementary and secondary education. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, is up for reauthorization. The Act addresses a large portion of the main federal programs affecting K-12 schools.

As part of a larger project to rethink the federal role in elementary and secondary education, CEP has prepared this compendium, which summarizes the findings of major studies of the implementation and effects of NCLB conducted by various organizations and agencies. The summaries are very brief—most of them one page per study—and have been categorized by topic.

Both this compendium and CEP's broader federal role project are intended to help policymakers make decisions informed by evidence from research. Because the summaries are very condensed, we see this compendium as a starting point to familiarize policymakers and other with the range of research available on NCLB. We encourage readers to use the Web links at the bottom of each summary to explore the full reports in more detail.

This edition of the compendium focuses primarily on studies of Title I of ESEA as amended by NCLB, the federal program to improve education for low-achieving children in low-income areas. New studies and other topics may be added later.

Criteria for Including Studies

We included studies that met the following criteria:

  • Were published in 2005 or later, after states, districts, and schools had become familiar with the law's requirements and implementation was well underway
  • Had a national or regional scope or included evidence from multiple states and/or school districts, rather than being focused on a single state or one or two districts
  • Were conducted by a research organization, government agency, university, national organization with a research division, or scholars with expertise in NCLB issues
  • Were based on data collected through well-established research methods rather than being primarily opinion pieces
  • Focused on a significant policy issue or outcome of NCLB
  • Could be accessed free of charge, at least in summary form, on the Web

Applying some of these criteria necessarily involved making judgment calls — deciding, for example, what constitutes a significant policy issue or where to draw the line between pure opinion and informed interpretation of research. We tried to make these judgments in good faith and without regard to our own views about the findings of the studies.

Process for Developing the Summaries

A CEP senior consultant and two research interns reviewed the findings of the selected studies and developed summaries of each. We based our summaries on the executive summaries, conclusions, or other summary sections of the original study reports. For this reason, much of the writing credit belongs to the original authors of the studies. To keep each summary to a page or two, however, we used a broad-brush approach and often further condensed the findings from those in the original reports.

Two experts who have closely tracked NCLB research since the law's inception reviewed the list of studies and the content of the summaries and suggested additions and revisions.

Organization of the Compendium

The compendium is divided into nine sections and an index:

Within each section, studies are listed in alphabetical order by their main sponsoring organization. Where there are multiple studies by the same organization, they are listed from the most recent to the oldest. For comprehensive studies that address several topics, relevant findings may be mentioned in more than one category.

The Index of Studies includes a complete alphabetical list of studies summarized in the compendium. The list shows the sponsoring organization, date, author, and title of the study and which section they can be found in.

Common Abbreviations Used in the Summaries

AYP — Adequate yearly progress
ED — U. S. Department of Education
ELLs — English language learners
ESEA — Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
HOUSSE — High objective uniform state standard of evaluation (for teacher qualifications)
NAEP — National Assessment of Educational Progress
NCLB — No Child Left Behind Act
SES — Supplemental educational services

Credits and Acknowledgments

This compendium was produced by Nancy Kober, a CEP consultant, and Michelle Ayazi and Emily Davaney-Graham, CEP interns. Diane Stark Rentner, CEP's director of national programs, provided advice, direction, and editing. CEP would like to thank Wayne Riddle and Joel Packer for reviewing the list of studies and a draft of the content.

We are grateful to the Ford Foundation, the C.S. Mott Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation, which support this project, and to the George Gund Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Phi Delta Kappa International Foundation, which provide general support to the Center. The statements made and the views expressed in this report are solely the responsibility of the Center on Education Policy.

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