Stay-the-Course Strategy Could Preserve NCLB--or Backfire

April 04, 2008 1 min read

“They’d rather stick with what they’ve got than deal with some wholesale retrenchment” on NCLB, Kevin Carey of Education Sector told me yesterday when we discussed Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ graduation-rate announcement.

It may be a good strategy. As I wrote back in January, the law is permanently authorized. If Congress doesn’t revise it this year, it might not get to it next year, given that the next president is unlikely to take on K-12 issues as his or her first priority. This law could stay in place without big changes until 2010.

But is that a good long-term strategy? Maybe not. The longer NCLB is out there as it is today, the more the people with vested interests in changing it are going to be motivated to overhaul it.

Take, for example, school board members. As Lawrence Hardy reports over at “Leading Source,” NSBA members recently reversed their position on encouraging states to seek federal money to create regional networks that would set common academic standards. The reason: Endorsing such compacts could eventually lead to federal standards. “Washington’s not too popular with school board members right now,” Hardy writes. (I think he’s understating the sentiment.) That’s the case, in large part, because school board members don’t like NCLB’s rules on accountability and highly qualified teachers.

When Congress gets around to fixing NCLB, school board members will be among the crowd pushing for major changes. And the longer they work under the current law, the more changes they may want in it. The same goes for teacher unions, superintendents, and even members of Congress.

Staying the course may be best for the short term, but not the long term.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.