Do Americans want more or less centralization?
Do they prefer greater control in Washington,
the states, or local school districts?
Should politicians, educators, or the marketplace rule schools?
The Political Dynamics of American Education
by Frederick M. Wirt and Michael W. Kirst
After studying NCLB in various contexts I have become frustrated with the parameters set by the federal system, which I see as stifling the efficiency of education in the United States. So much money could be saved and so much effort put towards other goals by creating one set of standards and one test for the entire country. The symbolic nod to states rights written into NCLB is redundant and old-fashioned. What could possibly be the difference, after all, between the math needed by fourth graders in Florida and the math needed by fourth graders in Nebraska? With the exception of a few social studies classes, state tests seem an antiquated and wasteful practice.
I was surprised to read that a Gallup poll in 2002 concluded that 68 percent of Americans think that all states should use a national assessment to measure student achievement (Wirt & Kirst, p. 30). The proposals for amendments to NCLB that I have studied take the state’s role as a given and attempt to work around it or use incentives to entice states to adopt national standards. If only thirty percent of the population would disagree, why does the federal government not just take over? Upon reading and thinking more about the subject, I began to realize that there are two flaws with this way of thinking. First, as Smith et al. so persuasively point out, polls are far from accurate descriptions of true widespread public sentiment. Second, it is not the public whose opinion matters, but those in power. Certainly local and state legislators, governors, and administrators of state departments of education would be loath to make themselves obsolete in the accountability-in-education arena.
 When I refer to money being saved and jobs being lost through centralization, I am not taking a fiscally conservative stance. On the contrary, in my perfect world, the savings – and much more- would go to providing comprehensive education for those children who need it most. The salaries of bureaucrats who lost their jobs would go to social workers, psychologists, nurses, family involvement coordinators, and paraprofessionals hired from the school’s community.