The fifth anniversary of the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act had more to do with its future than its past.
In a series of events across Washington on Jan. 8, Bush administration officials and lawmakers started to outline their ideas of how to revise the law, addressing the need to improve teacher quality, find ways to turn around struggling schools, and establish challenging standards that define what students should know and be able to do.
At a White House meeting, President Bush met with the leaders of Congress’ education committees, covering all of those issues and others, including whether the law has adequate funding behind it.
“We made our case that the legislation clearly needs additional resources to be successful,” Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a news conference after the White House meeting. “I do not believe we can accomplish [reauthorization] without additional funding.”
Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings outlined several important changes she and others in the Bush administration want Congress to make as it revisits the law, which is scheduled to be reauthorized this year.
Ms. Spellings said the law has been successful in spawning academic improvements in elementary schools, and said she would like to see its emphasis on testing and accountability extended further into high schools. The law currently requires states to assess students in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school.
“We need more accountability, more measurement,” she said in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters. “We need to broaden our accountability with additional subjects. It’s absolutely critical that we focus on high schools this year.”
Also on Monday, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., the second-ranking majority member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and a potential presidential contender, and Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., introduced a bill that would provide incentives for states to adopt voluntary national education standards in mathematics and science, to be developed by the governing board for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
A few days earlier, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the new chairman of that committee, introduced a bill that would encourage states to benchmark their own standards and tests to NAEP, often known as the “nation’s report card,” but would stop short of developing national education standards. Both bills would give states incentives to increase the rigor of their standards, rather than mandate national standards. Secretary Spellings said she would support efforts such as Sen. Kennedy’s that would provide states with incentives to independently adopt challenging standards.
“Any time there’s a carrot approach as opposed to a stick for raising the bar, that will be well received,” Ms. Spellings said at the White House news conference.
Earlier in the day, in a speech commemorating the law’s anniversary, she said she would not support anything that would give her or her agency control over the content of such standards. “I’m not sure people want me to be the person setting standards for their schools,” she said.