Legal hurdles and arguments: Using the courts to affect implementation of No Child Left Behind
This study explores the legal implications of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Under Title I of NCLB, states must develop standards and assessments, and hold schools and districts accountable for their performance on these assessments. While provisions regarding standards and assessments are not entirely new at the federal level, several accountability mandates included in NCLB are more demanding than those in previous federal statutes. Moreover, since NCLB was passed, the federal government has displayed an increased willingness to enforce demanding Title I provisions, and states have experienced several implementation problems. Accordingly, NCLB has already begun to face legal challenges.
This study examines the implementation problems of NCLB, and how courts have and can be used to affect the implementation of NCLB. First, this study examines the history of NCLB, its implementation problems, and the criticism it has faced. Second, this study examines legal cases generally decided by February, 2005 and aimed at affecting the implementation of NCLB. Here, this study focuses on the types of implementation problems highlighted by plaintiffs, the arguments employed by plaintiffs and defendants, and the way courts have decided these cases. Due to legal hurdles of a procedural, statutory, and constitutional nature, the litigation strategies employed by plaintiffs to influence the implementation of NCLB have been ineffective. Third, this study examines the recent collision between school finance reform litigation and issues related to standards- and accountability-based reforms. Unlike the cases directly brought in response to NCLB, cases brought under legal theories stemming from school finance reform case law appear better able to affect the implementation of standards- and accountability-based reforms. Fourth, this study presents two new legal arguments that plaintiffs could adopt to potentially affect the implementation of NCLB. Accordingly, this study would not only prove useful to potential plaintiffs or scholars who wish to assess the courts' past and potential impact on NCLB, but also education researchers who wish to identify the types of policy problems highlighted by NCLB's political and legal context.
0514: School administration