NEW OUTLOOK FiveThirtyEight's chief economics writer Ben Casselman wants to append a piece to the controversial headline of his piece: "No Child Left Behind Worked...At least in one important way." Casselman argues that No Child Left Behind (NCLB), for all its shortcomings, has changed the way American researchers and officials view education data for the better. Case in point, he writes: schools in Beverly, Massachusetts had, on average, done well on state tests. In 2003, they received notice that they were failing. Why? Just 17 percent of their low-income students scored at least proficient in English.
The idea that a school is only as strong as its weakest students was central to NCLB, Casselman says. The act required individual minority groups—black, Latino, low-income or special education students—to make progress on state tests. Nowadays, researchers focus on the achievements and failures of each group. Casselman thinks that tighter focus equips us to better fight "the soft bigotry of low expectations," as former president George W. Bush called them.