Date of Award

Fall 12-20-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deron Boyles

Second Advisor

Joyce King

Third Advisor

Philo Hutcheson

Fourth Advisor

Jodi Kaufmann




The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; Public Law 107-110) reauthorizes and expands the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require large amounts of student data for the purpose of academic surveillance. This study investigates the historical and philosophical components of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon as a model of surveillance to identify similarities between panopticism and the rubric of collecting student data required by NCLB. All public school districts are evaluated annually for adequate yearly progress (AYP). Under the auspices of this evaluation, all students must be tested, and all results must be included in each district’s AYP calculation. All African American, Hispanic, White, economically disadvantaged, special education, and limited English proficient (LEP) students must meet the same performance and participation standards. States individually develop minimum size criteria for evaluation of student groups. High schools must meet a graduation rate standard set by the state.

NCLB’s comprehensive data compilation and student tracking initiatives are consistent with previous federal education policies to conduct data surveillance on students and teachers. Similar to Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century Panopticon model of penal supervision and rehabilitation, NCLB is transforming the schoolhouse into a correction house by unveiling technologies of surveillance and power. By using Benthamian and Foucauldian philosophical analyses, this dissertation examines NCLB’s

worldview of student data and tracking, specifically from student subgroups, and their effects of panoptic surveillance.

This dissertation proceeds with a review of the historical context of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and Michel Foucault’s panopticism. This study recognizes various American educational reform movements from 1776 to 2002 in identifying the following panoptic disciplines: constant surveillance, hierarchical observation and categorization, and panoptic power. It considers the NCLB doctrine of data collection for student and teacher tracking purposes and presents an anticolonial analysis of NCLB’s methods of compiling and tracking student subgroup data using the works of anticolonial scholars Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, and Carter Woodson. The dissertation concludes with a synthesis of the questions and the problems presented by NCLB and the implications of this analysis for students and teachers.

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