From Presidential Debates to Minnesota Classrooms: An Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Robert Weber, Political Science


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 significantly changed the federal role in the United States K-12 education system, but by September of 2003, its impact remained unclear. This thesis is a preliminary and exploratory assessment of the realities of NCLB and its impact after two years of implementation efforts. This assessment addresses three different questions: How did NCLB come to exist? How is NCLB affecting the United States? Finally, how is NCLB affecting individual school districts? I assessed how the law came to exist by researching what brought NCLB to Congress, the foci of debates, and the origins of opposition. I assessed the law's affect on the United States by analyzing national media. I finally assessed the law's impact on local school districts through interviews in two case study districts - Hopkins and St. Cloud.

Researching these three aspects of NCLB reveals that the law is largely the result of a buzzword, "accountability," and a buzz phrase, "Leave No Child Behind," turning into federal law without the Congress or the Administration seriously considering opposition before passage. The law has subsequently become a frustration and a headache. Nationally, NCLB is perceived as being problematic because of its onerous details and bureaucratic requirements, its unrealistic expectation, and finally its inadequate funding. Researching the law's impact on St. Cloud and Hopkins revealed that the two districts face problems within each of the aforementioned categories, but the many characteristics that make the districts unique also make them uniquely affected by NCLB's many details and requirements.