House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.


Fact Sheet

January 4, 2007

The No Child Left Behind Act: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Public Schools

President Bush and Republicans are working to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.   For 35 years, the federal government spent more than $300 billion on education without insisting on results for our children.  President Bush and Congress have brought that era to an end.

On December 13, 2001, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 381-41, the House approved President George W. Bush’s education reform legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act.  Signed into law on January 8, 2002, the landmark measure is a comprehensive overhaul of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) built on principles of accountability for results; local control and flexibility; expanded parental choice; and increased funding for what works.

The U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee (now Education and Labor Committee) last year launched a new series of hearings to examine key aspects of No Child Left Behind.  These hearings served to lay the foundation for reauthorization of this landmark law.


  • Gives parents report cards on school performance.
  • Sends more dollars to the classroom, with fewer strings attached.
  • Reforms federal K-12 education programs, requiring accountability for results through annual testing to ensure all children are learning.
  • Provides extra help for schools identified as underachieving.
  • Shields teachers, principals, and school board members from frivolous lawsuits.
  • Gives new options to parents with children in dangerous or chronically underachieving public schools.
  • Streamlines federal K-12 education programs from 55 to 45.
  • Transforms bilingual education programs to focus on helping LEP children learn English.
  • Drastically increases funding for reading programs proven to work.
  • Increases federal teacher quality aid to help states recruit, train, and retain highly-qualified teachers.


  • Empowers parents, voters, and taxpayers with data about public schools – allowing “sunshine” into the public education system and increasing accountability for results.
  • Provides immediate new options for parents of students in thousands of underachieving and/or dangerous public schools across America.
  • Streamlines the number of federal K-12 education programs from 55 to 45 and requires that ninety-five percent of all federal funds reach the local level.
  • Expands local control and gives all 50 states and every local school district new freedom and flexibility in the use of federal education dollars.
  • Requires accountability for results through annual testing of students in federally-funded public schools in reading and math in grades 3-8.
  • Focuses on effective, proven methods of reading instruction backed by scientific research.
  • Asks states to have a highly-qualified teacher in every public classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.
  • Strengthens special education by giving new tools to parents of children with special needs, along with new resources to help schools recruit qualified special education teachers and improve early reading instruction.


  • Schools that accept federal funds must demonstrate that they are making “adequate yearly progress” – in other words, that they’re meeting state standards each year for student achievement.  This is accomplished through annual testing of public school students in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school.
  • Schools identified as underachieving immediately qualify for extra help.  Parents with children attending these schools, including children with special needs, immediately qualify for new options.
  • Allows states to design and implement their own annual tests.
  • Explicitly prohibits federally sponsored national testing or federally controlled curricula.
  • Exempts home schools, home school students, private schools, and private school students from all testing requirements.
  • Requires that test data be disaggregated and reported by race, income, and other criteria to demonstrate not just that overall student achievement is improving, but also that achievement gaps are closing between disadvantaged students and other students.
  • Creates a “safe harbor” for schools that can demonstrate students in a particular subgroup are making significant progress toward proficiency but have not technically met AYP. This provision is intended to help prevent over-identification of underachieving schools.
  • Requires a small sample of students in each state to participate in the fourth and eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading and math every other year as a means of verifying the results of the statewide assessments all students take.


  • Underachieving schools are not “sanctioned” or labeled “failing;” they qualify immediately for extra help, including emergency funding and technical assistance.    
  • Such schools immediately qualify to receive extra help, including additional federal funding for school improvement, as well as technical assistance in developing a plan to turn the school around.
  • Schools that continue to underachieve – even after years of extra help – are required to change dramatically.  After four years, schools that do not improve after a period of intensive assistance and extra help will be required to implement significant corrective actions to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff.  After five years, such schools can be transformed dramatically through measures such as reconstitution, state takeover, the hiring of a private management contractor, conversion to a charter school, or significant staff restructuring.


  • Parents with children in underachieving schools are given the right to obtain private tutoring and other supplemental services for their children through their child’s share of federal Title I funds.  
  • Parents with children in underachieving schools are given the right to transfer their child to a better or safer public school, with transportation costs paid for.


  • Federal funding for teacher programs has increased by more than a third since Fiscal Year 2001 to help states train, recruit, and retain quality teachers.  
  • Calls for states to have a highly qualified teacher in every public classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.  
  • Shields teachers and school officials, including school board members, from frivolous lawsuits.  
  • Prohibits national teacher testing and certification.   Each state is asked, in exchange for federal funding, to develop and implement a plan to ensure teachers are highly-qualified.


  • Expands local control of schools by providing new freedom and decision-making authority to every local school district in America.  
  • Applies “Dollars to the Classroom” principles to federal formula grant programs, so that ninety-five percent of federal education funds are spent at the local level.
  • Provides local communities with more flexibility and more control over how federal education funds are used.
  • Gives every local school district in the country the freedom to use up to half of its non-Title I federal education funds as it sees fit, instead of following strict Washington rules.  
  • Allows state and local flexibility “demonstration projects” to be established across the nation to demonstrate the effectiveness of state and local control in improving student achievement.  Seven states across the nation will be granted additional flexibility in the use of federal funds, receiving a waiver from federal education requirements relating to a variety of federal education programs.


  • Completely changes the focus of bilingual education programs from programs teaching limited English proficient (LEP) children primarily in their native languages to programs focused on helping LEP children learn English.
  • Consolidates the former Bilingual Education and Immigrant Education programs into a single flexible program with a totally new focus on helping limited English proficient (LEP) students learn English.
  • Requires accountability for results in teaching LEP children English.  Requires that LEP students be tested for reading and language arts in English after they have attended school in the United States for three consecutive years.
  • Requires that all teachers in a language instruction class for LEP children be fluent in English, including written and oral communication skills, and any other language used by the program.
  • Requires that parents be notified when a limited English proficient child is in need of English language instruction.


  • Provides new resources and a focus on results to help states ensure all children are skilled readers by the end of third grade.
  • Dramatically increases federal funding for states that implement scientifically based reading instruction programs that are proven to work.  (Reading First)
  • Establishes a companion initiative for early reading instruction (Early Reading First) to enhance reading readiness for children in high poverty areas, and where there are high numbers of students who are not reading at grade level.


  • Provides an exemption from all federal testing requirements for home schools and home schooled-students. 
  • Provides an exemption from all federal testing requirements for any private school or private school student that does not receive federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds or services.
  • Prohibits federal control over private, religious, and home schools, while clarifying that such schools are not barred from participating voluntarily in NCLB programs or services.
  • Requires states receiving federal NCLB funds to have a procedure in place to transfer student disciplinary records (such as records of a suspension or expulsion) from local school districts to private or public schools when a student transfers to a new school.


  • Provides hundreds of millions in federal “seed money” to help establish new charter schools and provide additional assistance existing ones.
  • Prohibits federal funding for schools that unlawfully restrict constitutionally protected student prayer.
  • Provides greater fairness for rural school districts by giving local school officials greater say in how federal funds are used.
  • Allows community-based organizations – including religious organizations and other public entities and private organizations – that provide safety and drug abuse prevention programs to apply for federal funds under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act.
  • Places specific prohibitions on the U.S. Department of Education as safeguards against any form of federal control over state or local curriculum.


President Bush and Republicans in Congress have worked together since the signing of No Child Left Behind to provide the resources for education reform while funding a nation at war.  As a result of No Child Left Behind, public schools in the U.S. this year are benefiting from the largest amount of federal funding ever provided for elementary and secondary education.  Never in the history of the United States has the federal government invested so much in our nation’s schools.  The No Child Left Behind reforms are tied to the historic level of funding for federal elementary and secondary education funding – a one-third percent increase ($23.3 billion in FY 2006) since President Clinton’s last budget ($17.4 billion in FY 2001).

  • Title I Aid for Disadvantaged Schools & Students – Federal aid to disadvantaged students and schools has increased dramatically as a result of President Bush’s reforms.  Title I aid for disadvantaged students, the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act, has increased by forty-four percent since FY 2001, to $12.7 billion in FY 2006.  Under the first two years of President Bush’s presidency, we saw a greater increase in Title I funding than in the previous seven years combined under President Clinton.
  • Reading First and Early Reading First – As a result of the No Child Left Behind, billions of additional federal dollars are flowing to states and school districts to improve reading instruction using proven methods based on scientific research.  Federal funding for reading has nearly quadrupled since the last budget signed by President Clinton.
  • Teacher Quality – As a result of President Bush’s reforms, federal funding for teacher quality programs has increased by a third since President Clinton’s last budget to help states train, recruit, and retain quality teachers.
  • Bilingual and Immigrant Education – The No Child Left Behind Act dramatically transforms the federal bilingual education and immigrant education programs, changing them from programs focused on teaching limited English proficient children in their native languages to a single new program focused on ensuring such children learn English.