Rick Hess and Michael McShane of the AMERICAN Enterprise Institute bring a fresh perspective from their perch on the right. Writing in the conservative journal Education Next, they speculate on the reasons for the disappointing results of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the twin policies of Bush and Obama.

Policy makers in Washington loved the ideas of testing, accountability, choice, and national standards. Yet, we now know that these policies were controversial and ultimately ineffective. NAEP scores flatlined, and there is little or no evidence that these policies succeeded.

They write:

“Within a few years, though, those Obama administration efforts—especially its support for teacher evaluation and the Common Core state standards—would themselves turn controversial, breeding backlash that rivaled the dissatisfaction with NCLB. Obama’s reforms would get mired in bitter debates about their emphasis on test scores and whether they constituted federal overreach.

“The results of all this activity were decidedly mixed. There’s some evidence that NCLB’s accountability push led to modest test score gains, at least early on (though one can reasonably ask how much of those gains was evidence of schools “getting better” and how much might have been due to teachers shifting time and energy from other subjects to reading and math instruction). Over the past decade, however, the National Assessment of Educational Progress has shown an unprecedented flat-lining of achievement growth. Research suggests that ambitious efforts to remake teacher evaluation did not lead to meaningful changes in how candidly teachers are actually evaluated, and that the $7 billion in the federal School Improvement Grant program did not, on average, improve achievement in participating schools. The Common Core and many of these other efforts may yield benefits down the road, but the results have certainly not been revolutionary and are widely perceived to be disappointing.

“This brief recap prompts a simple query: What happened? Why did each of these initially promising, seemingly popular efforts at federal leadership ultimately lose its luster? Were the high-profile initiatives of the Bush-Obama years a much-needed kick-start that forced America to get serious about school improvement, or a recipe for slipshod policymaking and rushed implementation that ultimately undermined reform? Did these reforms reflect a gutsy commitment to putting students first or political gamesmanship that yielded a counterproductive series of distracting mandates?”

There is no reason to believe that the latest version of these policies—the Every Students Succeeds Act—Will fare any differently.