Leaving behind No Child Left Behind

By Caroline Winter

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION BUDGET | 2008 $59.2b | 2012 $68.1b

PHOTOGRAPHS Moment Images/Getty Images

No Child Left Behind, the education reform act George W. Bush signed into law in January 2001, is waning. The legislation, which started out with strong bipartisan support, requires schools receiving federal funding to administer annual reading and math tests and to increase the number of passing students each year. But instead of rising to the challenge, states lowered their standards and began teaching to the test. By the time President Obama entered office, support for No Child had eroded among Democrats and Republicans. Rather than press Congress to repeal the law outright, Obama created a back door, allowing states to apply for waivers. They rushed through it. To date, 33 states and the District of Columbia have opted out, and 11 more have applications pending. Obama aims to replace No Child with Race to the Top, a $4.5 billion federal grant program that he says will revitalize failing schools by awarding money to states that, among other things, incorporate student achievement into teacher evaluations and support the creation of charter schools. Neither idea is popular with teachers’ unions — but governors are lining up. So far, 46 states have applied to get their share of the cash.

SAT SCORES ARE SINKING

DECIPHERING THE NUMBERS

Average SAT scores hit a record low in 2012, with Critical Reading dropping four points since 2008 and Writing dropping five. One explanation for the decline in scores may be a 6 percent increase in the number of test-takers over the period, including more non-native English speakers and low-income students. Results measured by a different test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tell a slightly different story: Math and reading scores for fourth and eighth graders have either improved or remained unchanged since 2009.

FOREIGN ENROLLMENT IN THE U.S. IS SURGING

WHERE THE STUDENTS COME FROM*

Top 10 countries

Visas ’11 | % change since ’08

Canada 423,775 | +870%

Mexico 384,533 | +449%

China 277,742 | +122%

S. Korea 59,218 | -3%

India 96,828 | -6%

S. Arabia 69,751 | +288%

Japan 61,320 | -22%

Germany 48,761 | -9%

Brazil 43,849 | -2%

U.K. 43,288 | -7%

*University and vocational schools; includes dependents and exchange students

SOURCES U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, College Board, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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