Judy Block

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Deron Boyles - Chair


ABSTRACT BENEFITS OR HARMS OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND by Judy Block The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 reauthorizes and extensively amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and establishes control over the majority of federal programs and spending that affect public education. Embedded in the Act are various requirements that states and schools must adhere to as a condition of receiving federal education funds as well as harsh sanctions for failing to meet the requirements. No Child Left Behind notably shifts federal education policy by expanding its role into the areas of standards and assessment, accountability, curricula, discipline and administration, and providership. The Act also exacerbates tensions and blurs the line between competing ideologies of the role and nature of public education. NCLB's dominant reliance on proven research methods and statistical data, and its provisions regarding student assessment, failing schools, and parental choice open the schoolhouse door to commercial marketteers, further transforming public education into a consumer good, classrooms into marketplaces, and students and teachers into immaterial byproducts. No Child Left Behind's requirements often have more than one result, with some results doing more harm than the Act's stated good. The principle of double effect (PDE) provides a lens to evaluate instances where there are two effects of a single act; that is,PDE can explain the permissibility of an action that causes an undesired or harmful effect secondary to promoting some good end. By using philosophical analysis generally, and the principle of double effect specifically, this dissertation examines No Child Left Behind’s implementation requirements, specific programs, and their effects to determine the Act's benefits or harms. The dissertation proceeds with a review of NCLB's historical context and key features, an introduction to the principle of double effect, and a discussion of democratic and market ideologies and their relationship with education. This dissertation recognizes the various populations affected by the Act, but focuses specifically on students with disabilities and the relationship of the principle of double effect to the implications of NCLB. Chapter Four extends the principle of double effect to NCLB's implementation requirements and specific programs to identify their consequences or effects. The dissertation concludes with a synthesis of the questions and problems presented by NCLB and the implications for students, teachers, public education, and our communities.