As Washington lawmakers debate the revision of the federal No Child Left Behind policy, they should take notes from a new book, Standardized Childhood by Bruce Fuller. Citing his research on the NCLB, in a recent op-ed Fuller makes the point that, “Since No Child was approved, just one of these six trend lines has inched upward: fourth-grade math. The other five plots have gone flat or simply fallen. Progress in narrowing achievement gaps also has stalled, after closing markedly in the 1990s.”
Fuller is critical of NCLB and, by extension, universal pre-K initiatives because, in his view, they overemphasize testing and lead to centralized, micromanaged programs that can only provide “a rather illiberal education” and are not responsive to the needs of children from diverse families.
Standardized Childhood calls for a strong public investment in preschools, but in programs that remain rooted in community organization and are focused on children who empirically benefit the most—those from low-income families. He points out that no study has detected lasting benefits for children from middle-class homes.
This is in contrast to both what Republicans and Democrats have proposed. Senator Hilary Clinton recently proposed a $5 billion pre-K federal government program that would cover "every child not just children whose parents cannot afford it," see article.
According to Fuller Congress should look at Austin’s school system as a model. The city has defied partisan politics and embraced early-childhood programs focused on children from working class families, with an emphasis on bilingual education. These reforms are nurturing a mixed market of preschools, including a colorful blend run by churches, community groups, and the public schools. See article.