No Child Left Behind – a carrot and a stick

I expected to be writing a lot more about the upcoming reauthorization of “No Child Left Behind” on this blog … except that it doesn’t seem to be upcoming after all. Despite widespread consensus that the law needs fixing, and a looming 2014 “proficiency” deadline, Congress is not making much progress on producing a new bill.

Now Education Secretary Arne Duncan is offering states an end-run … with strings attached. He proposes granting states waivers from NCLB requirements if they embrace a reform agenda that includes strong accountability measures for student AND teacher performance.

My first instinct is to like this idea, although I wonder if it isn’t a constitutional overreach. In the 1990s, when Congress (note, Congress, not a Cabinet secretary) gave states more leeway to structure their own welfare programs, many states pursued a much more creative path to helping poor families than simply paying them to stay poor.

On the other hand, this could easily turn into one more federal mandate that ignores individual state realities, and priorities.

Just because Congress isn’t getting to work debating how NCLB should be reformed doesn’t mean that we can’t! I’d love your comments, and anyone who would like to submit a longer piece on the subject should feel free to email me: MMcconnell@desnews.com.

Here’s a link to an Education Week article that describes Duncan’s proposal, and several states’ responses, in some detail.

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