In states granted a waiver, students will still be tested annually. But starting this fall, schools in those states will no longer face the same prescriptive actions spelled out under No Child Left Behind. A school’s performance will also probably be labeled differently.
The pressure will probably still be on the lowest-performing schools in states granted a waiver, but mediocre schools that aren’t failing will probably see the most changes because they will feel less pressure and have more flexibility in how they spend federal dollars, said Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank.
While the president’s action marks a change in education policy in America, the reach is limited. The populous states of Pennsylvania, Texas and California are among those that have not said they will seek a waiver, although they could still do so later.
On Feb. 7, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said states without a waiver will be held to the standards of No Child Left Behind because “it’s the law of the land.”
Some conservatives viewed Obama’s plan not as giving more flexibility to states, but as imposing his vision on them. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, said the president allowed “an arbitrary timeline” to dictate when Congress should get the law rewritten and set a dangerous precedent by granting the education secretary “sweeping authority to handpick winners and losers.”
Duncan maintained this week that the administration “desperately” wants Congress to fix the law.
In an election year in a divided Congress, that appears unlikely to happen.
A Senate committee last fall passed a bipartisan bill to update the law, but it was opposed by the administration and did not go before the full Senate for a vote.
Kline released a draft of a Republican-written bill to update the law, earning the ire of California Rep. George Miller, the committee’s ranking Democrat. Miller said such partisanship “means the end” to No Child Left Behind reform in this Congress. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over education, has said he believes it “would be difficult to find a path forward” without a bipartisan bill in the House.