Updated October 9, 2007
"Education has got to be the cornerstone of domestic policy," Bush told PBS Frontline during the 2000 campaign. In January 2002 he signed into law the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act, which has as its chief goals (1) to raise student achievement, and (2) to close the gap separating school performance by white, Asian and other middle-class students from that of other minority and poor students. The law mandates testing of students from grades three through eight, and requires steady progress toward state-defined standards of proficiency in reading and math. While many educators agree that the goals are laudable, details of the law and the administration's approach to implementing it have come under harsh criticism. Critics contend:
- The law is inadequately funded.
- The law relies excessively on standardized tests, and devalues instruction tailored to students' individual needs.
- The measurement requirements ensure that a majority of the nation's public schools will be labeled as low-performing.
- In urban areas the promise of relief from failing schools is meaningless because there is no space in better-performing schools to accommodate additional students.
- In rural areas training requirements that are impractical for rural school programs will force teachers to resign.
Some have gone so far as to suggest that the law is an assault on the public schools system, intended to promote failure, which can then be used to argue for school vouchers.