POLITICS

Here's What Americans Want From A No Child Left Behind Overhaul

Eight years after the nation's major education law expired, we might finally be getting a new one.

As members of the Senate and House of Representatives work to find compromise on their respective overhauls of the No Child Left Behind Act, Americans are expressing agreement with a central tenet in both chambers’ proposals: the federal government should have less influence over standardized tests.

A nationally representative HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in early August shows that more than half of Americans think state governments should have more power than the federal government to determine how standardized tests are used in schools. Only 21 percent of respondents said they thought the federal government should have more power than states in this arena; about a quarter said they were not sure.

The poll comes after the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed their own bills rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act in July. The two versions, called the Student Success Act and the Every Child Achieves Act, respectively, contain key differences. But both bills empower states to have more control over the way standardized tests are used to measure school success.

 The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law during a rare glimmer of bipartisan cooperation in 2002, emphasizes standardized testing and consequences for schools that fail to live up to the law’s expectations. The law favors a one-size-fits-all approach, allowing the federal government to determine standardized testing schedules for schools and to decide how schools should be held accountable for those test scores. The law expired in 2007, but since that time, Congress has failed to decide on an adequate replacement. Instead, a patchwork of waivers designed by the Obama administration allows states to escape from the law’s harshest requirements in exchange for their cooperation in implementing education policies the president favors.

The passage of the Student Success Act and the Every Child Achieves Act represent real momentum in replacing No Child Left Behind after years of partisan head-butting and stagnation. Currently leaders in the two chambers are conferencing to work through some of the two bills' key differences in an attempt to create a bill that will pass Congress

Both the House and Senate bills maintain the federal standardized testing schedule initiated by NCLB, calling for math and reading assessments every year in grades three through eight, and once in grades nine through 12. But unlike NCLB, the bills ask states to design their own systems to determine how schools should be held accountable for students' exam scores.

Nearly half of Americans disagree with the current standardized testing schedule in place -- meaning they are likely not pleased with key components in the House and Senate bills that retain that schedule. Forty-seven percent of poll respondents said they think most K-12 students take “too many standardized tests,” while 23 percent said students take “about the right amount of tests." Only 11 percent said they think students “take too few tests.” About one-fifth of respondents said they are not sure.

Either way, it seems as though Americans are ready to get a new major education law on the books. When asked how the No Child Left Behind Act impacted the education of public school students overall, 33 percent of respondents said they think the law made things worse. Only 13 percent said they think it made things better.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted August 1-3 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. 

YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

 

 

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