Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Currently Known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
The Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate Accountability Report (PDF)
February 12, 2013
Prior to 2008, many states used inaccurate high school graduation rate calculations. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued regulations to address this concern, which were scheduled to become fully operational in every state in the 2011–12 school year. ED’s flexibility policy (i.e., waivers from key provisions within the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB]) provides an opportunity for states to implement innovative policies and practices designed to improve student achievement and graduation rates. This report provides an extensive analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education, which shows that recent progress in holding high schools accountable for how many students they graduate—the ultimate goal of K–12 education—may be slowed in some states based on waivers recently granted under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as NCLB. The report also includes a review of approved waiver plans submitted by thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.
Providing Greater Opportunities for Deeper Learning in NCLB Waivers Policy Brief (PDF)
May 16, 2012
The eleven state applications approved by the federal government for waivers under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act vary in the degree to which “deeper learning” skills are reflected in the standards, accountability systems, professional development, and teacher evaluations, according to a new policy brief written by the Alliance for Excellent Education. This brief argues that deeper learning provides students with the deep content knowledge they need to succeed after high school and the skills that today’s jobs demand. To ensure that deeper learning competencies are better reflected in state plans, the brief offers recommendations to policymakers.
Confronting the Crisis: Federal Investments in State Birth-Through-Grade-Twelve Literacy Education Policy Brief (PDF)
March 31, 2012
Literacy is one of the most critical components of academic success, but the majority of students are leaving high school without the reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college and a career. According to ACT, fewer than 40 percent of black and Latino students are ready for college-level reading when they graduate from high school. This policy brief describes two state-led initiatives—the English language arts common core state standards, and comprehensive birth-through-grade-twelve state literacy plans—to help all young people attain the advanced literacy skills needed to succeed in the modern world. It concludes with a set of policy recommendations to invest fully in efforts to catalyze nationwide improvements in literacy achievement.
Waiving Away High School Graduation Rate Accountability Policy Brief (PDF)
January 10, 2012
In November 2011, eleven states submitted applications to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for waivers from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Although the waiver process presents an opportunity to strengthen college and career readiness among the nation’s high school students, this analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education finds that many state applications could have the unintended consequence of weakening high school graduation rate accountability. High school graduation rates account for 14 percent to 30 percent of state accountability indexes. With graduation rates counting for such a small portion of the overall accountability indexes, schools could have an incentive to push out low-achieving students in order to increase overall scores on achievement tests and other measures of college and career readiness.
Title I and High Schools: Addressing the Needs of Disadvantaged Students at All Grade Levels Policy Brief (PDF)
June 23, 2011
Authored by Wayne Riddle, a veteran of the Congressional Research Service and one of the nation's foremost experts on Title I, this paper explains in detail the process in which states, districts, and schools receive Title I funding, and discusses the low level of support that high schools receive from Title I. New data in this report includes a state-by-state analysis of the number of high-poverty high schools that are not eligible for Title I. Additionally, recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act are provided in order to strengthen support of high schools through Title I.
Meeting the Challenge: The Role of School Leaders in Turning Around the Lowest-Performing High Schools Policy Brief (PDF)
January 18, 2011
As the national policy community has coalesced around the priority of graduating all students ready for college and careers, the challenge of improving the lowest-performing high schools serving the most challenged populations remains. This policy brief examines the limitations of previous high school reforms and describes new approaches showing promise in producing substantive changes in secondary level teaching and learning. It highlights the central role of school leaders and districts in creating high school learning environments that can engage and support students with widely divergent learning needs. The brief concludes with a set of policy recommendations for the design of coherent systems to build human capital and foster the conditions for high school transformation.
Call for Action: Transforming Teaching and Learning to Prepare High School Students for College and Careers Policy Brief (PDF)
August 12, 2010
In the weeks since the Obama administration released its blueprint for revising ESEA on March 13, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee have held multiple hearings on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. The Alliance for Excellent Education has prepared primers for each hearing that contain useful facts, flaws in current law, and recommendations for how to improve federal policy on the subject featured in each hearing.
Prioritizing the Nation’s Dropout Factories Policy Brief (PDF)
April 12, 2010
Noting that the nation is in the midst of a dropout crisis that costs more than $335 billion in lost wages for each class of dropouts, Prioritizing the Nation's Dropout Factories: The Need for Federal Policy That Targets the Lowest-Performing High Schools calls on federal policymakers to perform "legislative triage" by devoting attention to the lowest-performing high schools and immediately improving or replacing the most severely "injured" schools. It specifically cites three upcoming opportunities to address this national problem and includes a breakdown of how many dropout factories are in each state and what percentage of high schools students attend them.
Don’t Leave Accountability Behind: A Call for ESEA Reauthorization Report (PDF)
March 1, 2010
While the federal government and the states have implemented some promising education reform efforts in 2010, these efforts will have limited long-term impact and risk undermining accountability if they continue to be pursued without updating and improving the bedrock of federal education policy-the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the current version of which is known as the No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB). Only an ESEA reauthorization can address the aspects of NCLB that time, experience, and research have shown need to be significantly improved or updated. This report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left Behind, Don't Leave Accountability Behind: A Call for ESEA Reauthorization, describes four distinct reasons ESEA reauthorization is necessary to support long-term reform and ensure strong accountability for student outcomes and improvement.
Principles for a Comprehensive Assessment System Policy Brief (PDF)
February 25, 2010
The United States is poised to make the most dramatic advance in assessment in decades. A state-led effort to develop common core standards in literacy and mathematics is defining what it means to be ready for colleges and careers, and this effort will invariably heighten the demand for assessments that measure a broader range of knowledge and skills and open the door for common assessment components across states. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Education is providing $350 million for consortia of states to develop new assessments that measure the common core standards. And a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will set guidelines for assessments and their use for years to come. This opportunity could not be more timely. There is widespread concern that the most prominent assessments currently being used in the United States are inadequate and may have a significantly negative impact on student learning. This brief suggests the principles upon which the federal government and states should base their work in fashioning new assessments. Recognizing that no single test can fulfill all the needs for information by all stakeholders, it suggests the need for a comprehensive system of assessments. Most importantly, the brief argues that this system needs to be coherent and cohesive, aligned to standards for college and career readiness.
Action Required: Addressing the Nation’s Lowest-Performing High Schools Policy Brief (PDF)
May 4, 2009
In an age where a postsecondary education, let alone a high school diploma, is increasingly necessary to succeed in the global economy, the growing recognition of a graduation crisis that disproportionately affects poor and minority students has helped galvanize the demand to improve the lowest-performing high schools. Education leaders have a responsibility to provide better options to the students served by such high schools. Addressing the nation’s lowest-performing high schools with effective options for all students—either by transforming them, closing them, or replacing them with multiple other schools—will require a systemic strategy that involves stakeholders and policymakers at all levels, establishes the necessary conditions for success, and promotes organizational practices and instructional strategies within a school that lead to improved teaching, learning, and outcomes. This brief examines the current federal approach to addressing the lowest-performing high schools; explores lessons learned from emerging strategies at the state and local level; and provides related recommendations for federal policy.
Reinventing the Federal Role in Education: Supporting the Goal of College and Career Readiness for All Students Policy Brief (PDF)
July 10, 2009
It is a unique moment in education policy. From the highest levels of leadership--the president and the U.S. secretary of education--there is a call to action to address the high school crisis, focus on the lowest-performing schools, and graduate students college and career ready. Over the last few years, congressional leaders have developed legislative proposals based on research and best practice that demonstrate possible ways forward for federal policy. The recent infusion of new funds from the federal stimulus program has opened the nation’s eyes to new opportunities and reinvigorated efforts to improve education. And the state-led movement to develop common standards and assessments offers the nation an opportunity to trade incremental changes for collaborative efforts with the power to truly transform American education. It is time to harness this progress and momentum, and convert commitment and proposals into a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) strategically designed to address the high school crisis and move the nation toward the goal of all students graduating from high school ready for college and careers. This brief provides recommendations for an ESEA reauthorization that would help ensure federal policy not only maintains pace with the common standards initiative, but also serves as a leader and partner in helping bring the potential of this and other efforts to fruition.
Moving Beyond AYP: High School Performance Indicators Policy Brief (PDF)
June 29, 2009
As education stakeholders look ahead to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, there is near-universal consensus that the current federal accountability and school improvement systems need to be reinvented, infused with more and better data, and tailored to meet the individual needs of schools and students. Now, educators, policymakers, and the public are eager for indicators that both better reflect the national goal of graduating all students ready for college and careers and help educators plan and implement strategies for getting them there. Fortunately, a number of high school performance indicators have emerged as being predictive of high school graduation and college and career readiness. These factors include attendance, course success, on-track-to-graduation status, course-taking patterns, success on college- and career-ready assessments, postsecondary success rates, and school climate. This brief, Moving Beyond AYP: High School Performance Indicators, describes the research behind these indicators, measurement options and challenges, and current use across the nation. It also offers recommendations to federal policymakers for supporting the use of multiple, actionable high school performance indicators.
As the nation embraces the goal of graduating all students college and career ready, there is a growing movement to realign standards, assessments, and accountability systems to that goal. Meaningful Measurement: The Role of Assessments in Improving High School Education in the Twenty-First Century, is a collection of essays by leading experts that discuss important assessment issues, examines promising assessment practices from across the globe, and offers recommendations on how the federal government can support an assessment agenda for the twenty-first century. Topics include: assessments that measure students’ college and career readiness, performance assessments, the role of benchmark assessments, assessing high school students who are English Language learners and students with disabilities, the benefits of international assessments, the role of technology in improving assessments and their use, and how assessment design affects the implementation of a growth model at the high school level.
Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability Policy Brief (PDF)
March 16, 2009
As the poor performance of U.S. high schools has been acknowledged and come to the forefront of education policy debates over the past several years, so too has a recognition of the need to improve graduation rate calculations and accountability for increasing those rates. A range of state, national, and federal efforts have been launched toward this end—many of which were codified in the October 2008 federal regulations on Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This brief, Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability, provides background information on the movement toward better data collection, common graduation rate calculations, and meaningful accountability for raising graduation rates and describes in detail the culminating federal policy changes made by the regulations, which reflect both the significant progress that has been made and the hurdles that remain.
For too long, inaccurate data, misleading official graduation and dropout calculations, and inadequate accountability systems at the state and federal levels have obscured low graduation rates. In October 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released regulations that change requirements for states’ calculations, reporting, and accountability systems for graduation rates under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Nationally, and for each state, Federal High School Graduation Rate Policies and the Impact on States summarizes the changes the new regulations would make in these three policy areas and describes how each state's current graduation rate policies might be affected.
Understanding High School Graduation Rates (Updated)
November 25, 2008
Far too many of our high school students—particularly poor and minority students—are leaving school without a high school diploma. Understanding High School Graduation Rates provides the latest graduation rate statistics, demonstrates graduation gaps between demographic groups, illustrates the discrepancies in graduation rates reported by government and independent sources, and examines the economic costs of dropouts to individuals and society.
From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate Report (PDF)
August 28, 2008
This report outlines the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Framework for Action to Improve Secondary Schools, which reflects the consensus among educators, researchers, policymakers, and other authorities on the specific problems of secondary schools, as well as on the research- and best-practice-supported solutions to those problems. Taken together, the seven policy areas contained within the framework offer a comprehensive and systemic approach to secondary school reform.
In response to the need to dramatically change the way secondary schools operate and teach their students, the Alliance for Excellent Education has developed a Framework for Federal Action to Improve Secondary Schools. This systemic reform agenda reflects the growing consensus of researchers, practitioners, and advocates who are translating valuable lessons from research and practice into recommendations for policy.
This document summarizes the pieces of secondary school legislation pending before Congress supported by the Alliance for Excellent Education, including sponsor and cosponsor information.
On behalf of all of America’s secondary school students, and in particular for the more than six million who are most at-risk of academic failure, the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) calls on Congress to complete a No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) reauthorization this year that includes the following recommendations. These policies will build on the ideals of “no child left behind” and help to lead the nation toward “every child a graduate.” This document outlines the Alliance’s priorities for a NCLB reauthorization and, for each recommendation, describes Congressional action to date.
In Need of Improvement: NCLB and High Schools Policy Briefs (PDF)
October 27, 2007
When the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) was drafted and signed into law, little attention was paid to the unique challenges that exist in the nation’s high schools and what is best known about how to improve them. As a result, the law emerged with provisions that often neglect, or that are even at odds with, the needs of America’s millions of high school students, particularly the six million students who are most at risk of dropping out of school each year. The brief describes these design and implementation flaws and how they undermine the educational and equity promises of NCLB at the high school level. In Need of Improvement: NCLB and High Schools calls on Congress to take the opportunity during the reauthorization of the law to build on the ideals of “no child left behind” and pass legislation that will lead the nation toward “every child a graduate.”
Federal Support for Adolescent Literacy: A Solid Investment Issue Briefs (PDF)
June 12, 2007
In March 2007, legislation was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to authorize the Striving Readers program, designed to support high-quality reading and writing instruction for millions of students in grades 4–12. But skeptics may wonder: Is there sufficient research to justify a major new federal investment in this area? As this Issue Brief shows, there have been significant findings related to instruction in grades 4-12, the knowledge base on adolescent literacy continues to expand, and the research does indeed provide a solid foundation for effective policymaking.
Accountability for What Matters – Graduates Prepared for Success (PDF)
2006 Conference Panel paper
October 12, 2006
Prior to, and certainly since, the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), “accountability” has taken center stage as a critical tool for increasing student success and closing achievement gaps. Indeed, valid, transparent accountability systems—properly designed and implemented—can be a major force as schools, districts, states, and the nation work toward those goals. Unfortunately, the current NCLB accountability system is too often a blunt instrument where it should be a precise tool for promoting positive change. This is especially true at the high school level, where graduation rates are not sufficiently valued and there is a dearth of funding for school improvement.
NCLB and Middle Schools: Confronting the Challenges Policy Briefs (PDF)
July 1, 2003
America's middle schools have a problem. Like elementary and high schools, they must meet a barrage of new requirements as the result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But NCLB treats middle schools like high schools some of the time, like elementary schools at other times, and lets individual states determine their status in some situations. NCLB and Middle Schools clarifies the NCLB mandates particular to middle schools. The brief describes the difficulties that school boards, superintendents, and school administrators are likely to face as they try to meet the NCLB requirements by their impending deadlines, and offers a series of recommendations designed to help train middle school teachers in academics and in meeting the unique developmental needs of their students, provide them with critical professional development resources, and provide incentives to attract highly qualified teachers to high needs areas.
Left Out and Left Behind: NCLB and the American High School
September 1, 2003
Out of Print
Left Out and Left Behind: NCLB and the American High School details the NCLB mandates particular to high schools, and documents the specifics of the shortfall in federal funding needed to effectively implement NCLB's requirements for standards and accountability. Also included in the report is the first release of nationwide and state-by-state numbers of schools which have been determined to be "in need of improvement," as well as a compilation of state and city graduation rates. The report recommends specific actions that the federal government can take to greatly improve the educational prospects of America's most at-risk secondary school students.
Every Child a Graduate: A Framework for an Excellent Education for all Middle and High School Students
September 13, 2002
Out of Print (Please see: From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate)
In 2002, the Alliance for Excellent Education published Every Child a Graduate, one of the first nationally focused efforts to draw attention to the problems in many of the country’s middle and high schools, and to encourage federal—as well as state and local—policy reform designed to improve student achievement and attainment. Since that report’s release, the knowledge base that informs what is known about both the problems and the ways to solve them has grown dramatically, thanks to the efforts of researchers and educators across the country.
In August 2008, the Alliance released From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate, which attempts to lay out a new framework for action to improve secondary schools that is based on this expanded pool of research and predicated on the recognition that, to be effective, reform must be comprehensive and systemic.
Investing in Excellence: Making Title I Work for All Children
September 3, 2002
Out of Print
Investing in Excellence: Making Title I Work for All Children shows how the federal government can lead the way in providing states and local school districts with the resources necessary to address the challenge and realize the vision—by fully funding Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title I can be the driving force for educational excellence for all students by providing funds to reduce class size, train teachers, offer after-school and summer enrichment, deliver tutoring, and update curricula.