No Child Left Behind: Executive Summary

The Bush administration's program, No Child Left Behind, is a plan for educational reform that is targeted at changing the use of federal funds to close the achievement gap and improve achievement levels. The following is excerpted from the executive summary.

As America enters the 21st Century full of hope and promise, too many of our neediest students are being left behind.

Today, nearly 70 percent of inner city fourth graders are unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests. Our high school seniors trail students in Cyprus and South Africa on international math tests. And nearly a third of our college freshmen find they must take a remedial course before they are able to even begin regular college level courses.

Although education is primarily a state and local responsibility, the federal government is partly at fault for tolerating these abysmal results. The federal government currently does not do enough to reward success and sanction failure in our education system.

Since 1965, when the federal government embarked on its first major elementary-secondary education initiative, federal policy has strongly influenced America's schools. Over the years Congress has created hundreds of programs intended to address problems in education without asking whether or not the programs produce results or knowing their impact on local needs.

This "program for every problem" solution has begun to add up – so much so that there are hundreds of education programs spread across 39 federal agencies at a cost of $120 billion a year. Yet, after spending billions of dollars on education, we have fallen short in meeting our goals for educational excellence. The academic achievement gap between rich and poor, Anglo and minority is not only wide, but in some cases is growing wider still.

In reaction to these disappointing results, some have decided that there should be no federal involvement in education. Others suggest we merely add new programs into the old system.

Surely, there must be another way – a way that points to a more effective federal role. The priorities that follow are based on the fundamental notion that an enterprise works best when responsibility is placed closest to the most important activity of the enterprise, when those responsible are given greatest latitude and support, and when those responsible are held accountable for producing results.

This education blueprint will:

  • Increase accountability for student performance

    States, districts and schools that improve achievement will be rewarded. Failure will be sanctioned. Parents will know how well their child is learning, and that schools are held accountable for their effectiveness with annual state reading and math assessments in grades 3-8.

  • Focus on what works

    Federal dollars will be spent on effective, research based programs and practices. Funds will be targeted to improve schools and enhance teacher quality.

  • Reduce bureaucracy and increase flexibility

    Additional flexibility will be provided to states and school districts, and flexible funding will be increased at the local level.

  • Empower parents

    Parents will have more information about the quality of their child's school. Students in persistently low-performing schools will be given choice.

Though these priorities do not address reforms in every federal education program, they do address a general vision for reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and linking federal dollars to specific performance goals to ensure improved results.

Our priorities in this blueprint consist of seven performance-based titles:

  1. Improving the academic performance of disadvantaged students
  2. Boosting teacher quality
  3. Moving limited English proficient students to English fluency
  4. Promoting informed parental choice and innovative programs
  5. Encouraging safe schools for the 21st Century
  6. Increasing funding for Impact Aid
  7. Encouraging freedom and accountability

There will be additional funds targeted to needy schools and districts. States and school districts will have the flexibility to produce results, and may lose funds if performance goals are not met.

In America, no child should be left behind. Every child should be educated to his or her full potential. This proposal sets forth the President's proposed framework to accomplish that goal. This Administration will work with Congress to ensure that this happens quickly, and in a bipartisan manner.

The policy

The Administration's education reform agenda is comprised of the following key components, many of which would be implemented during the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

Closing the achievement gap

  • Accountability and high standards

    States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards. States must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement.

  • Annual academic assessments

    Annual reading and math assessments will provide parents with the information they need to know how well their child is doing in school, and how well the school is educating their child. Further, annual data is a vital diagnostic tool for schools to achieve continuous improvement. With adequate time for planning and implementation, each state may select and design assessments of their choosing. In addition, a sample of students in each state will be assessed annually with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 4th and 8th grade assessment in reading and math.

  • Consequences for schools that fail to educate disadvantaged students

    Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for disadvantaged students will first receive assistance, and then come under corrective action if they still fail to make progress. If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, disadvantaged students may use Title I funds to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school, or receive supplemental educational services from a provider of choice.

Improving literacy by putting reading first

  • Focus on reading in early grades

    States that establish a comprehensive reading program anchored in scientific research from kindergarten to second grade will be eligible for grants under a new Reading First initiative.

  • Early childhood reading instruction.

    States participating in the Reading First program will have the option to receive funding from a new "Early Reading First" program to implement research-based pre-reading methods in pre-school programs, including Head Start centers.

Expanding flexibility, reducing bureaucracy

  • Title I flexibility

    More schools will be able to operate Title I schoolwide programs and combine federal funds with local and state funds to improve the quality of the entire school.

  • Increased funds to schools for technology

    E-rate funds and technology grant funds will be consolidated and distributed to schools through states and local districts based on need. This will also ensure that schools no longer have to submit multiple grant applications and incur the associated administrative burdens to obtain education technology funding.

  • Reduction in bureaucracy

    Overlapping and duplicative categorical grant programs will be consolidated and sent to states and school districts.

  • New state and local flexibility options

    A charter option for states and districts committed to accountability and reform will be created. Under this program, charter states and districts would be freed from categorical program requirements in return for submitting a five-year performance agreement to the Secretary of Education and being subject to especially rigorous standards of accountability.

Rewarding success and sanctioning failure

  • Rewards for closing the achievement gap

    High performing states that narrow the achievement gap and improve overall student achievement will be rewarded.

  • Accountability bonus for states

    Each state will be offered a one-time bonus if it meets accountability requirements, including establishing annual assessments in grades 3-8, within two years of enacting this plan.

  • "No Child Left Behind" school rewards

    Successful schools that have made the greatest progress in improving the achievement of disadvantaged students will be recognized and rewarded with "No Child Left Behind" bonuses.

  • Consequences for failure

    The Secretary of Education will be authorized to reduce federal funds available to a state for administrative expenses if a state fails to meet their performance objectives and demonstrate results in academic achievement.

Promoting informed parental choice

  • School reports to parents

    Parents will be enabled to make informed choices about schools for their children by being given access to school-by-school report cards on student achievement for all groups of students.

  • Charter schools

    Funding will be provided to assist charter schools with start-up costs, facilities, and other needs associated with creating high-quality schools.

  • Innovative school choice programs and research

    The Secretary of Education will award grants for innovative efforts to expand parental choice, as well as to conduct research on the effects of school choice.

Improving teacher quality

  • All students taught by quality teachers

    States and localities will be given flexibility in the use of federal funds so that they may focus more on improving teacher quality. States will be expected to ensure that all children are taught by effective teachers.

  • Funding what works

    High standards for professional development will be set to ensure that federal funds promote research-based, effective practice in the classroom.

  • Strengthening math and science education

    K-12 math and science education will be strengthened through math and science partnerships for states to work with institutions of higher education to improve instruction and curriculum.

Making schools safer for the 21st century

  • Teacher protection

    Teachers will be empowered to remove violent or persistently disruptive students from the classroom.

  • Promoting school safety

    Funding for schools will be increased to promote safety and drug prevention during and after school. States will be allowed to give consideration to religious organizations on the same basis as other nongovernmental organizations when awarding grants for after-school programs.

  • Rescuing students from unsafe schools

    Victims of school-based crimes or students trapped in persistently dangerous schools will be provided with a safe alternative. States must report to parents and the public whether a school is safe.

  • Supporting character education

    Additional funds will be provided for Character Education grants to states and districts to train teachers in methods of incorporating character-building lessons and activities into the classroom.

Excerpted from: President George W. Bush. (January, 2001). Executive Summary. No Child Left Behind. U.S. Department of Education.


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This all sounds great on paper;however,our elementary school doesn't adhere to teaching the 5 components of reading nor do they teach using research based reading instruction. I think there needs to be more emphasis on compliance. They do not adhere to NCLB or IDEA. It is as though, they are impervious to the law. I can understand how & why our educational system has been able to deteriorate to the lowest level ever. Standards were lowered yrs ago,and schools continue to teach, their way,using several different methods, and it appears, they only abide by the laws that benefit them the most. Even now, after Reading First,they are still not teaching what is required &it seems they do not intend to change. I believe these laws need to be enforced, PDQ. We, as parents, canonly do so much. We don't stand a chance against the DOE. When we file complaints, we aretrouble makers and our children are retaliated against, whether, it is right or wrong, it still occurs. I think complaints should be strictly confidential and should not be filed w/the state DOE. If this is not a conflict of interest, I don't know what is. We need a Federal Dept to oversee and enforce compliance,& not allow the DOE,to "police" itself. This is a prime example of where, "action speaks louder than words." Until these laws are enforced, nothing will change and our children will continue to suffer. We are doing our children and ourselves an injustice, if weallow this to continue. There needs to be more rigorous sanctions and penalties, along with stricter policies. Procedures should be detailed and accessible to the public. More than one reprimand should be made public. The time to act is NOW!

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox