Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.

“Boston Legal” Produces Diatribe Against NCLB

December 13, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

First “Family Guy,” then “Boston Legal” takes a shot at NCLB.

A tipster reports from his iPhone that Tuesday’s episode entitled “No Brains Left Behind” portrayed NCLB in a negative light. In it, a girl is expelled for shredding tests and is charged under state law for tampering with the exams. In the courtroom, she goes into a diatribe against NCLB and testing. (Note: I haven’t seen the episode. “Boston Legal” isn’t one of the shows available on ABC’s Web site. All I found was this plot summary, which alludes to the girls expulsion but doesn’t mention NCLB.)

It’s not the first time “Boston Legal” has lashed out against the law. In a January 2006 show, Michael J. Fox’s character says: “We treat our teachers like crap…. And the government in their ‘No Child Left Behind’ law has created a monster.” That’s according to a timeline about NCLB events posted by the Arizona Education Association.

Back in 2003, my former colleague Michelle Galley interviewed a communications expert about how the Bush administration was branding the phrase “No Child Left Behind.”

“What’s brilliant is that no one can argue with” not wanting to leave a child behind, said Jessica Schwartz Hahn, then the executive vice president of Widmeyer Communications.

Today, though, the meaning of the phrase has turned into something else. Judging from the portrayal on prime time this week, Americans think of testing and unfair expulsion when they hear the phrase “No Child Left Behind.”

I ask: Does that make it, as Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said “the most tainted brand in America?”

My tipster asks: Will the Hollywood writers strike be good for NCLB?

UPDATE: Eduflack also writes up the “Boston Legal” episode. He describes the girl in the NCLB plot line as “a high-achieving high school student stealing her school’s standardized tests to spotlight the inadequacies of high-stakes testing.” He also offers a correction: The girl was not charged with a crime; she went to court to overturn her expulsion.

As for NCLB’s status as a brand, here’s what Eduflack says: “The only positive out of all this, I suppose, is that NCLB is known well enough as a brand that it can stand as a story line on a top prime-time television program, without needing explanation or set-up. As silly as blaming NCLB for our high school woes may be, those TV producers assume that their viewers know NCLB, know the issues around AYP and high-stakes testing, and will buy into the concerns over teaching to the test and preparing students for the challenges of the future. Maybe the NCLB brand name is better recognized than Eduflack has assumed”

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week