Making Failure Matter: Enacting No Child Left Behind's Standards, Accountabilities, and Classifications

Jill P. Koyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article ethnographically examines the paradoxical situation in which one high-achieving New York City public school is "constructed" as failing when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) assessments are miscalculated. Drawing upon actor-network theory (ANT)-a perspective that aims to explain how people, their ideas, and the material objects they produce assemble together in dynamic collective activity to attend to a particular issues-this work reveals how those in the school join with a for-profit educational support business, district administrations, and city officials to construct, encounter, and confront the situations created by the miscalculations. What unfolds over the three years after the school is incorrectly labeled as failing is shown to bean example of what is possible, if not probably when accountability-laden, sanctions-drive, and calculation-focused policies, such as NCLB, gain favor. By exploring the gaps between policy texts, policy aims, and their effects, this ANT analysis offers educational practitioners and researchers a way to interrogate and understand the endurance of policies, like NLCB, which show questionable efficacy over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-891
Number of pages22
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • accountability
  • actor-network theory
  • failure
  • no child left behind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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