March 31, 2004, Extra Credit
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March 31, 2004

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NCLB Is An "Inexpensive School Reform"

Independent studies have shown the federal government is providing more than enough money to implement No Child Left Behind. For instance, an analysis by two Massachusetts officials concluded that the level of federal funding states are receiving is adequate to meet the requirements of the law. The following are excerpts from a commentary by Harvard University education experts Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West, which ran in a recent edition of Education Week:

"The No Child Left Behind law is, intrinsically, an inexpensive school reform, a plan to get more bang from existing bucks, not a high-priced mandate. The costs of setting standards, testing students, and releasing results to the general public are trivial, compared to the cost of public schooling more generally. Two Massachusetts officials, James Peyser and Robert Costrell, report in the current issue of our publication, Education Next, that accountability costs in their state run about $20 per student tested. Looking at 25 states, the Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby found that the costs of accountability systems in place in the 2000-01 school year ranged from less than $2 per public school student in South Carolina to $34 per student in Delaware. Costs in the median state were just $15 per public school student."

"If money could solve the educational problem, it would by now be behind us. Since 1980, school expenditures—in inflation-adjusted dollars—have risen by no less than 67 percent, far outpacing the growth in the economy as a whole. Unfortunately, there is scant evidence that, in the absence of market competition, more money makes for better schools. Over the past quarter of a century, student performance has hardly budged, and the black-white test-score gap remains as large as ever. High school graduation rates are actually declining. Clearly, money is not the missing ingredient that has kept students from reaching the proficiency levels that the No Child Left Behind law insists upon. ... Far from being an unfunded mandate, the No Child Left Behind Act may be providing designer clothes at a bargain-basement price."

Caroline Hoxby's report, The Cost of Accountability, is available online at:


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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2013