October 8, 2007

Review finds Cato report offers valuable critique of NCLB but refuses to subject market-based reforms to critical analysis

Contact: Bruce Fuller, (510) 643-5362; (email)
Teri Battaglieri, (517) 203-2940; (email)

EAST LANSING, MI – A recent report from the Cato Institute urges scrapping the No Child Left Behind law and replacing it with a national voucher or tax credit system. A review of this report finds that though it offers a strong analysis of NCLB’s weaknesses, it ignores evidence of the benefits of state-led accountability efforts prior to NCLB and fails to subject market-based solutions to the same scrutiny applied to NCLB.

The Cato report, “End It, Don’t Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Professor Bruce Fuller, director of the Policy Analysis for California Education Center.

Fuller’s review offers praise for the report’s analysis of how NCLB has failed to deliver on its promise of raising student achievement and has resulted in a number of negative consequences for schools including narrowing curriculum and a lowering of the achievement bar.

Fuller criticizes the report, however, for its “highly selective, even misleading” use of research to make some of its points. He points out that the report’s argument for shrinking the government’s role in overseeing education would be greatly weakened had the report’s authors not ignored research finding rising test scores and narrowing achievement gaps during the 1990s – as states implemented accountability systems. He also points out that the report ignores or downplays research raising serious questions about the benefits of market proposals such as school vouchers – Cato’s preferred alternative to NCLB.

According to Fuller, even though the Cato report offers a critical analysis of NCLB, “when attention is turned to market proposals, the report offers only the party line.”

Find Bruce Fuller’s review and a link to the Cato Institute’s “End It, Don’t Mend It: What to Do with No Child Left Behind” report at:

About Think Twice

The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region. 

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