Barber said that he considers No Child Left Behind to be an outstanding law, perhaps one of the most important pieces of education legislation in US history, he said. But the law is not without its flaws, he said, which include its methodology for identifying underperforming schools on the basis of student test scores alone.
"It depends much too often on quite crude tests and one year's data," he said.
The world's best school rating systems, including England's, he said, not only consider test results, but also send government inspectors directly into schools to search for causes of poor performance. McKinsey's report on Ohio recommended that the state create a corps of inspectors like England's, which reviews every school at least once every three years, examining the teaching environment and the caliber of school leadership and suggesting changes, he said.
New York has set up a similar corps of inspectors, he said.
How do US educators react to Barber's advice?
Michael Cohen, president of Achieve Inc, a nonprofit group that helps states raise academic standards, worked with Barber on the Ohio report, and watched him outline its findings in a meeting with the state's 19-member board last fall.
"They just ate him up," Cohen said. "The combination of his wonderful British accent and humorous approach -- you can't do much better than that in a public speaker."