Education policy and No Child Left Behind for your research paper

Some good research paper topics on education policy and law involve writing about the role of the federal government and the Department of Education in education policy in the United States.

Learn more about No Child Left Behind and education policy. (Credit:

Learn more about No Child Left Behind and education policy. (Credit:

For example, a term paper topic on education reform could be to research the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which is being discussed in Congress with an overhaul to some of its provisions expected soon.

No Child Left Behind

When talking about education policy, one of the most important topics for a research paper is to discuss the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The law was passed in 2002 under President George W. Bush to “close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.” The law aims to offer funding for disadvantaged students, but more importantly sets standards and goals for schools and students to meet, and measures achievement and progress through state-wide standardized testing.

While the premise of improving education for all students is laudable, many educators have criticized NCLB, saying that it has forced teachers to teaching to the standardized tests at the expense of other forms of teaching and subjects that are not measured or tested, such as art, music and physical education. Even U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the relentless obsession to do well on standardized tests was “sucking the oxygen” out of the public school classroom.

Future of NCLB

Right now Congress is discussing ways to re-write NCLB with a vote due soon. They want to get rid of the law’s outdated policy, reduce the federal government’s involvement in public education, eliminate the annual testing requirements, and revise how to use Title 1 funding for low income students. Many House Republicans have blocked a vote on overhauling the law, saying that proposals are not conservative enough. Some feel a vote before the 2016 presidential election is unlikely.

Meanwhile educators are anxious for a vote to reform NCLB. In February, 500 education researchers in the U.S. signed a letter to Congress and the Obama administration with recommendations about how to rewrite NCLB. The letter said they “strongly urge departing from test-focused reforms that not only have been discredited for high-stakes decisions, but also have shown to widen, not close, gaps and inequities,” reported by Valerie Strauss in “More than 500 researchers sign NCLB letter to Congress: stop test-focused reforms,” posted February 14, 2015, in Washington Post. The researchers say there is no evidence that test-based accountability policies will produce equitable educational opportunities through substantially improved schooling.

Politics affecting education policy

Another good topic for your term paper is to discuss the effects of politics in public education. Historically, the federal government has played a major role in education policy. When Columbia University opened its Education Policy and Social Analysis Department in 2012, it held a panel discussion with distinguished education policy analysts and discussed major changes to American schools resulting from federal law, jurisprudence or policy.

Reported in “How Should Politics Influence Education Policy?” by Patricia Lamiell, posted on the Teachers College website at Columbia University, February 11, 2012, the panelists discussed how “NCLB, enacted in 2002, has had an enormous effect on how and what gets taught, in [Christopher] Cross’s view, forcing teachers to focus on testing at the expense of deep learning. And the Race to the Top program of the Obama administration has significantly affected spending priorities, teaching and learning in public schools,” wrote Lamiell.

Congressional bipartisanship hurts education policy

Commenting on the partisanship in Washington and need for compromise and finding solutions to problems, Christopher Cross, author of Political Education: Setting the Course for State and Federal Policy, 2014, commented in the article “To See Ahead, Look Back: If the History of Education Policy in America Tells Us Anything, It’s That We Need to Learn from Our Past,” by Maria Ferguson, in Phi Delta Kappan published in February 2015: “My book puts into context for the reader the forces and people who framed, shaped, and enacted education policy at the federal level. It is important to know what lies behind the policies that have been enacted so we can understand why various policies were enacted or failed enactment.”

For more topics in Education Law and Policy, check out Questia’s library for your research. 

How much of a role do you think the federal government should take in education policy?

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