NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 79, Number 3

June 2004
Articles

The Perverse Incentives of the No Child Left Behind Act

James E. Ryan

This Article examines the No Child Left Behind Act, which may be the most important federal education law in our nation’s history. The Act is supposed to increase academic achievement in schools across the nation, raise the performance of disadvantaged students to the level of their more affluent counterparts, and attract qualified professionals to teach in every classroom. These goals are obviously laudable. As Professor Ryan explains, however, the Act creates incentives that actually work against their achievement. Specifically, the Act unintentionally encourages states to lower their academic standards, promotes school segregation and the pushing out of poor and minority students, and discourages good teachers from taking jobs in challenging classrooms. Should any or all of these effects occur, achieving the Act’s goals will be more difficult, not less. Professor Ryan goes on to suggest a solution, albeit a partial one, to the problems created by the No Child Left Behind Act. Rather than focus on absolute achievement levels as the basis for school accountability, Ryan argues that the federal government and states should focus on rates of growth. Doing so would not only give a more accurate picture of school quality, and thus provide a fairer basis for school accountability; it would also diminish or eliminate the perverse incentives created by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Article concludes with a brief discussion of what the No Child Left Behind Act can teach us about the proper role of the federal government in education law and policy.

Understanding the Mark: Race, Stigma, and Equality in Context

R.A. Lenhardt

In its Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court regards intentional discrimination as the principal source of racial injury in the United States. In this Article, R.A. Lenhardt argues that racial stigma, not intentional discrimination, constitutes the main source of racial harm and that courts must take the social science insight that most racialized conduct or thought is unconscious, rather than intentional, into account in their constitutional analyses of acts or policies challenged on the grounds of race. Drawing on the social science work of Erving Goffmanbreaking work of Charles H. Lawrence, Professor Lenhardt argues that courts should reframe the constitutional inquiry to account for the risk or evidence of stigmatic harm to racial minorities. Professor Lenhardt explains that stigmatic harm occurs when a given act or policy sends the message that racial difference renders a person or a group inferior to Whites, the category constructed as the racial norm. This stigma imposes what Professor Lenhardt calls citizenship harms, which prevent members of racial minorities from participating fully in society in a variety of contexts. Professor Lenhardthistorical context of the challenged act or policy. Third, they should evaluate the current context of the act or policy, including consideration of a possible disparate impact on members of racial minorites. Finally, courts should consider the probable future effects of the act or policy in terms of its likely citizenship effects on members of racial minorities. Professor Lenhardt argues that, while the use of this test will not eliminate racial harms altogether, it will enable courts and policymakers to engage in a disciplined and systematic analysis of racial harm which will ultimately provide the basis for more effective means of addressing racial stigma and persistent racial inequalities in the United States.

Commentaries

Partisan Fairness and Redistricting Politics

Adam B. Cox

Courts and scholars have operated on the implicit assumption that the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” jurisprudence put redistricting politics on a fixed, ten-year cycle. Recent redistricting controversies in Colorado, Texas, and elsewhere, however, have undermined this assumption, highlighting the fact that most states are currently free to redraw election districts as often as they like. This essay explores whether partisan fairness-a normative commitment that both scholars and the Supreme Court have identified as a central concern of districting arrangements-would be promoted by a procedural rule limiting the frequency of redistricting. While the literature has not considered this question, scholars generally are pessimistic about the capacity of procedural redistricting regulations to curb partisan gerrymandering. In contrast, this essay argues that a procedural rule limiting the frequency of redistricting will promote partisan fairness by introducing beneficial uncertainty in the redistricting process and by regularizing the redistricting agenda.

Notes

Towards a New Standard for First Amendment Review of Structural Media Regulation

Michael J. Burstein

The Supreme Court’s decisions in the Turner Broadcasting cases ushered in a new era of rigorous judicial oversight of regulations aimed at shaping the economic structure of the media industry. The Turner decisions, and especially their application by lower courts, have expanded the range of regulations subject to heightened First Amendment scrutiny, consistently granted lower levels of deference to legislative and administrative judgments, and applied a degree of economic scrutiny of regulatory choices unseen since the Lochner era. In this Note, Michael Burstein argues that such scrutiny is inappropriate in light of the quickening pace of technological and economic change that marks the modern information environment. He observes that the technological balkanization of First Amendment jurisprudence has outlived its usefulness and that applying a unitary standard to all activities of a particular type of media fails to focus judicial attention on the entity’s core speech activities. Instead, Burstein proposes that courts draw a distinction between regulations that impact content production or editorial choices and those which aim to structure the distribution of information. The former remain deserving of heightened scrutiny, but the latter implicate a long tradition of allowing government regulation to improve the information order. Because government necessarily must make choices among competing instrumental arrangements, none of which implicates a particular normative theory of the First Amendment, such choices are entitled to judicial deference. As technology blurs the lines between different media outlets, this framework should provide the needed flexibility to protect the First Amendment interests of both media entities and the public they serve.

Toss the Travaux? Application of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Middle East Conflict—A Modern (Re)Assessment

David John Ball

The Israeli-Arab conflict remains one of the longest running disputes in history. The cycle of battle and negotiation has strewn the landscape with failed attempts at peace and generated decades of discussion. Much of this discussion has focused on the concern over human rights violations, overshadowing analysis of potential political and legal resolutions to the conflict. At the center of the human rights discussion stands the Fourth Geneva Convention, an international agreement codifying certain rules of war designed to protect civilians caught in the midst of conflict. The bulk of the literature calls for Israel’s application of the Fourth Geneva Convention and hones in on methods for Convention enforcement. In this Note, however, David John Ball argues that the Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference from the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention, or the travaux prdparatoires, makes clear that the Convention does not apply to nonstates. The Note undertakes a close reading of the travaux and finds that the widely accepted interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention contained in the Pictet Commentary cannot justify its application in the Middle East context. Specifically, the travaux reflects that the drafting states’ concerns over sovereign rights following World War II led to a disconnect between the Convention’s allegedly humanitarian aim of protecting civilians above all else and its capability to do so in all situations. Instead, the drafting states neither intended nor created a treaty capable of application to the complex situation existing in the Middle East. The unique history and prolonged occupation of the region, given the statements contained in the travaux, reveals that the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable to the conflict between Israel and the nonstate entity commonly known as “Palestine.” This Note concludes that eliminating incorrect assumptions about the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention is crucial to making progress toward political and legal resolutions to the conflict.