Americans Lean Toward Revising No Child Left Behind

by Jeffrey M. Jones

One in six believe law should be eliminated

PRINCETON, NJ -- As the Obama administration and Congress ponder the fate of the No Child Left Behind Act, Americans are inclined to retain it but not necessarily in its present form. Overall, 41% of Americans say Congress should keep the act but with major revisions, while 21% want it kept more or less in its present form, and 16% want it eliminated. About one in five do not have an opinion about the law. The percentage preferring to see No Child Left Behind kept, but with major revisions rises to a majority among those with an opinion on the law.

What action would you like to see Congress take on the No Child Left Behind Education Law? Among All Americans and Among Those Who Have an Opinion on No Child Left Behind, January 2011

The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002 as a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed in 1965. The law in its current form relies on measurement of student achievement through standardized testing, and attempts to hold schools accountable for failing to make progress.

President Obama is eager to revise if not replace No Child Left Behind, and leaders of both parties in Washington seem to agree on the need to change some provisions of the law. Among the more likely changes are revisions of the criteria used for judging schools as either making progress or failing, and easing the requirement that 100% of students be proficient at their grade level in math and reading by 2014.

The No Child Left Behind Act was one of President George W. Bush's first major legislative victories and was passed largely on a bipartisan basis, with the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy a leading co-sponsor. That may explain why Republicans, Democrats, and independents largely share similar views on what action Congress should take. A plurality of each group believes the law should be kept with major revisions, and no more than 20% of any political group thinks the law should be eliminated.

What Action Should Congress Take on No Child Left Behind, by Political Party, January 2011

Gallup previously asked about No Child Left Behind in 2009, at which time 85% said they were familiar with the law. Among this group, views were mixed, with 21% saying it had made the education U.S. public school students receive better, 29% saying it had made it worse, and 45% saying it had not made much difference.


The No Child Left Behind Act, which was due for re-authorization in 2007, has taken a back seat to the economy, healthcare, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as a legislative priority. With a growing number of schools now judged to be failing by the standards laid out in the law, there is increasing pressure from the Obama administration and education leaders to revise it this year. President Obama called for action on No Child Left Behind in his recent State of the Union address, and, given the limited support there is for either abolishing or maintaining the law, proposing major revisions to it may be the most popular course.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-16, 2011, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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