A leading Republican introduced a bill last week to create a pilot project to give states greater flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act, even though it has become clear that the Senate won’t pass a bill to reauthorize the law this year.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee proposed giving 12 states wide latitude in devising accountability systems and intervening in schools that fail to meet their NCLB achievement goals. In exchange, the states would agree to increase the rigor of their standards.
“In other words, instead of saying: ‘Do it exactly this way’ to the states,” Sen. Alexander said in introducing the bill Nov. 6, “the federal government would be saying: ‘Give us results, and we will give you more flexibility.’ ”
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings promptly announced her support for the plan offered by Sen. Alexander, who was education secretary under President George H.W. Bush and is the senior Republican on the Children and Families Subcommittee of the Senate education committee.
“This legislation is a reasonable and responsible step forward as Congress moves toward reauthorizing No Child Left Behind,” Ms. Spellings said in a statement.
But it’s unclear whether Sen. Alexander’s bill—or any other NCLB proposal in Congress—will advance in the near future. The day before Mr. Alexander introduced his bill, a spokeswoman for the Senate education committee acknowledged that the panel is unlikely to have enough time this year to pass a bill to reauthorize the nearly 6-year-old law.
One week earlier, a spokesman for the House Education and Labor Committee said the House was running out of time to pass a reauthorization bill this year. (“2007 NCLB Prospects Are Fading,” Nov. 7, 2007.)
Seeking Bipartisan Support
Sen. Alexander’s bill seeks to respond to criticisms that the NCLB law is too prescriptive, while also maintaining the law’s goal of improving student achievement.
To participate in the pilot, a state would have to agree to make its standards more challenging than they are now. The standards would need to be aligned with national and international exams, or to the admissions requirements of the state’s public universities.
After doing so, the state would be allowed to define what it would take for schools to achieve adequate yearly progress, and how the state would intervene in schools that failed to meet AYP goals.
A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 2007 edition of Education Week