he biggest upward ratchet ever in the federal governments role in public educationhistorically a state and local functionand possibly the most significant piece of domestic social legislation since the Great Society is George W. Bushs No Child Left Behind law, which sailed through Congress in the spring of 2001. Perhaps because so many of them dont send their children to public school, the American chattering classes have been strangely uninterested in No Child Left Behind. It has not been even a midlevel campaign issue this year. But it is due to be reauthorized, and one of the most important decisions the next president will have to make is what to do about it.

No Child Left Behind is a national version of the

Nicholas Lemann

Nicholas Lemann is a professor at Columbia Journalism School and a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book is Transaction Man.