March 28, 2023


New research reveals better outcomes for underserved students from No Child Left Behind and several unanswered questions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation today released new research that examines the impact of data-driven accountability in education policy over the last 20 years and sets the stage for concrete recommendations for the federal role in education. The report is the result of a collective effort with the nation’s leading education experts to create the most comprehensive analysis of the landmark education policies of the past two decades, from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Future of Data in K-12 Education initiative.

The report includes a quantitative research review authored by Dr. Dan Goldhaber and Michaelz DeArmond of CALDER at the American Institutes for Research and a qualitative analysis authored by Chris Stewart and the team at brightbeam.

"This research builds on the U.S. Chamber Foundation's longstanding commitment to high standards and accountability for the academic achievement of all students. It is an important step forward to understand what we've accomplished so far and where we're going as a nation," said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber Foundation. "Our Future of Data in K-12 Education initiative has revealed what we know and do not know about the last 20 years of federal education policy and lays the groundwork to develop a framework to improve the system for all of America's students.”

The report asks: what can we learn from the last two decades of education policy, and what do we still not know? According to what Goldhaber and DeArmond identify as the most credible existing studies, the report highlights the following:

  • Disaggregated data shifted the focus from the average kid to every kid—including Black, Hispanic, low-income students, English learners, and students with special needs. No longer were school districts able to hide the performance of some students behind an average.
  • Student achievement increased due to NCLB-era assessment and accountability policies, especially in math and especially for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students, who the system had not been serving well.
  • There is now access to far more reliable, comparable education data than there would be available otherwise, though there has not been sufficient time dedicated to rigorous analysis.
  • Reforms in teacher evaluation and school turnaround initiatives did not consistently improve student outcomes at scale, in part due to significant variation in quality of implementation.

However, existing research and data have not answered other critical questions, including:

  • Did schools serving historically underserved students get more money to improve than they otherwise would have?
  • If identified schools did get more money, what did they do with it?
  • How many identified low-performing schools became successful?
  • Have states seen improvement in measures other than academics, such as chronic absenteeism or school climate, that the Every Student Succeeds Act was also intended to elevate?

This underscores the need for further knowledge generation connected to federal policy and practice. The report also emphasizes the importance of federal policy that involves local decision makers and the public, and calls on states and districts to intervene when students are not learning.

The qualitative research from brightbeam uses focus groups and interviews with nearly 50 education stakeholders to add depth, context, and lived experience to the quantitative research.

This research is a foundational component of the U.S. Chamber Foundation's Future of Data in K-12 Education initiative, a multi-year initiative to assess and improve the future of data, assessments, and accountability in K-12 education. The U.S. Chamber Foundation will use this effort, and the reflections of the many experts and practitioners in the field, as an opportunity for clear-eyed, authentic review that will lead to recommendations for a future reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Read the full report here. To learn more about the U.S. Chamber Foundation's Future of Data in K-12 Education initiative and its esteemed working group members, visit: