The “No Child Left Behind” education law is still on the books in more than a dozen states, but legislation unveiled by Senate Democrats on Tuesday would eliminate the decade-old law and replace it with state-designed accountability systems.
The 1,150-page proposal put forth by Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, and 10 of his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee calls on states to develop their own education reform plans, scrapping the “adequate yearly progress” and other stiff requirements under the decade-old NCLB act.
“The bill I have introduced today will build on the current state-led reforms that support teachers and schools as they prepare America’s children with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and careers,” said Mr. Harkin, the committee’s chairman, who has announced he will retire at the end of his term.
Under the proposal, the 37 states that already have had education reform plans approved by the Education Department could continue to follow them, as could the District of Columbia, which also has had its reform blueprint endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. By submitting those plans, the 37 states and the District already have been granted waivers from NCLB.
The 13 states that haven’t yet been granted waivers continue to be bound by the law, which has fallen out of favor with most in the education community and now is criticized by both Republicans and Democrats as a “one-size-fits-all” approach that focuses too much on standardized testing and stifles creativity at the state and district levels.
If Mr. Harkin’s proposal becomes law, those 13 states would be required to adopt an accountability system “equally ambitious” to the 37 already approved by the Obama administration.
Congress has been trying to replace NCLB for several years but has found little bipartisan agreement. President Obama and Mr. Duncan used the waiver system as their “Plan B” for education reform in light of congressional inaction.