The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act is the most important legislation in American education since the 1960s. The law requires states to put into place a set of standards together with a comprehensive testing plan designed to ensure these standards are met. Students at schools that fail to meet those standards may leave for other schools, and schools not progressing adequately become subject to reorganization. The significance of the law lies less with federal dollar contributions than with the direction it gives to federal, state, and local school spending.
While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires all students to be “ proficient” in math and reading by 2014, the precedent-setting 2002 federal law also allows each state to determine its own level of proficiency. It’ s an odd discordance at best. It has led to the bizarre situation in which some states achieve handsome proficiency results by grading their students against low standards, while other states suffer poor proficiency ratings only because they have high standards.