Take a quick guess; what law addressed a problem everyone in America knew we had, was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, it had Republican John Boehner and Democrat Ted Kennedy hugging on the dais, met all of its targets and was still vilified in a political marathon?
It was No Child Left Behind. Under the program, minority scores went up across the board and girls achieved math parity with boys for the first time in history - and we were told teachers hated it. Educators union threatened to withhold millions of dollars in political contributions and a whole lot of votes from Democrats, so after President Barack Obama saw he might lose control of the House in the 2010 election, he began gutting the program.
A new assessment in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, finds that at least one complaint - job satisfaction - was overblown. Why is teacher job satisfaction is the most important thing in education, not student learning? That's politics.
Jason A. Grissom of Vanderbilt University, Sean Nicholson-Crotty of Indiana University and James R. Harrington of the University of Texas at Dallas, found instead that its implementation improved teacher's sense of classroom autonomy and administrator support. Overall, NCLB was found not to have much of an impact on job satisfaction and commitment to the profession – let alone the large negative effect sometimes attributed to the law.
And they have a much bigger problem. Common Core is all of the things that the hyperbole machine claimed No Child Left Behind was. No Child Left Behind simply said that failing schools weren't going to get money but how teacher's taught was up to them. Common Core controls everything.
Why examine NLCB teacher satisfaction? Because everything else has data - the program worked. It was only killed off due to partisan politics. The only claim left now is that it made teachers unhappy but a nationally representative sample of 140,000 regular, full-time public school teachers from four waves of the National Center for Education Statistics' Schools and Staffing Survey showed that wasn't the case, outside claims of union lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Two of the waves collected data during the 1993-94 and 1999-2000 academic years – prior to NCLB's implementation in 2002-03 – while the other two did so during the 2003-04 and 2007-08 academic years.
"Public perception is that NCLB has increased teacher stress due to accountability pressures, negatively impacting job satisfaction," said Grissom. "This narrative, which has been driven mostly by anecdotes and studies with limited or non-representative findings, turns out not to be supported by our results.
"Surprisingly, we found positive trends in many work environment measures, and in job satisfaction and commitment during the time coinciding with NCLB's implementation, with only modest evidence that NCLB itself had an impact. "
Among other findings:
- In 2008, 77 percent of teachers intended to remain in the profession until retirement or as long as possible, compared to approximately 65 percent in 1994.
- Compared to pre-NCLB, teachers after NCLB's implementation are working longer hours. However, there's little evidence to suggest NCLB is the cause.
- There is no evidence of different effects of NCLB on teachers at high-poverty and low-poverty schools, or on teachers in states with and without prior accountability systems.
"Simply put, our results do not support media accounts or policy rhetoric that portray NCLB as undermining teacher morale and intent to stay in the profession," said Grissom.
The researchers believe that NCLB's accountability standards gave districts and schools more incentive to provide teachers greater classroom autonomy and administrator support. However, since 2012, the federal government has granted NCLB waivers to dozens of states, weakening that incentive.
Rest in peace, NLCB. When it comes to politics, working well is not enough.