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No Child Left Behind and the Transformation of Federal Education Policy, 1965-2005 (Studies in Government & Public Policy) Paperback – June 1, 2006
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"A smoothly written, historically rich, politically savvy, and conceptually enlightening analysis of a set of political dynamics that have altered the American landscape of educational governance and of federalism itself."—Jeffrey Henig, author of Rethinking School Choice "McGuinn provides an insightful historical analysis of the politics of education over the last forty years—explaining how Republicans came to accept a strong role for the federal government, how Democrats came to accept the need for school accountability, and how No Child Left Behind came to be adopted despite the opposition of powerful interests. This is a book that is both informative and enlightening."—Terry Moe, author of Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools “In reader-friendly prose notable for its telling detail, McGuinn sketches the landscape, the actors, and the agendas that took America from ‘A Nation at Risk’ to the world of No Child Left Behind. This is a must-read for those who would understand the federal role in school improvement and the road that lies ahead.”—Frederick M. Hess, Director, Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute “Must reading for anyone interested in the historical origins and recent political developments regarding No Child Left Behind.”—Maris A. Vinovskis, author of History and Educational Policymaking
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"In reader-friendly prose notable for its telling detail, McGuinn sketches the landscape, the actors, and the agendas that took America from 'A Nation at Risk' to the world of No Child Left Behind. This is a must-read for those who would understand the federal role in school improvement and the road that lies ahead."--Frederick M. Hess, Director, Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
"Must reading for anyone interested in the historical origins and recent political developments regarding No Child Left Behind."--Maris A. Vinovskis, author of History and Educational Policymaking
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At the same time, McGuinn's book is really about ESEA and its reauthorizations (the last of which is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [NCLB]), not all of federal education policy. Inadequate attention is given to the politics and policy development of the other dramatic federal influence in K-12 schooling, namely, the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142), now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; recently reauthorized as the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, but frequently abbreviated as IDEA '04 and still referred to as IDEA). If you have an interest in IDEA politics and policy, Tiina Itkonen, who is a professor at the California State University, Channel Islands campus, has a book forthcoming (derived from her doctoral dissertation, "Stories of Hope and Decline: Interest Groups and the Making of National Special Education Policy"), which is sure to be seen as a profound contribution to the field.
The idea of regime change, which is the theoretical perspective adopted by McGuinn, is a good one. Clearly, there was a change in congressional leadership, largely through a consensus among moderate Democrats and Republicans, as well as significant and active leadership across three presidential administrations. There was also an evolution in thinking about the role of the federal government in school reform. The power of McGuinn's perspective is that it requires a careful longitudinal analysis of political events and policy proposals.
At the same time, I think McGuinn understates the power of John Kingdon's work in explaining how we arrived at NCLB as well as the importance of the 1994 reauthorization of ESEA during the Clinton administration. I recommend Christopher Cross' book, Political Education: National Policy Comes of Age, and Larry Cuban's book, The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can't Be Businesses, for additional insights into the development of the political consensus behind NCLB and the motives that had been slowly and increasingly driving the development of that consensus for nearly three decades.
Finally, I would contend that McGuinn's assertion that NCLB represents revolution rather than evolution needs further examination. Here, I think his policy regime change perspective comes up short because it does not help us decide what sort of policy mechanism justifies the status of revolutionary precedent. The 1994 reauthorization of ESEA included nearly all of the policy language that appears in the 2001 reauthorization (NCLB). The difference between them is the policy mechanisms included in the legislation--ESEA 1994 was all voluntary and rhetorical, while NCLB 2001 is mandatory--not the substantive thinking behind where federal education policy should go. This is a fine point, but critical to those who are interested in the implications of McGuinn's book for political science.
If you are interested in additional books explaining NCLB, you may wish to consider these:
No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools by Scott Abernathy
Politics, Ideology & Education: Federal Policy During the Clinton and
Bush Administrations by Elizabeth H. Debray
No Child Left Behind (Peter Lang Primer) by Frederick M. Hess
School's in: Federalism And the National Education Agenda by Paul Manna