No Child Left Behind – The War Is On!

A war is about to break out between the Department of Education, headed by Secretary Arne Duncan, and a Senate education committee, headed by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

At issue is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and how much control the federal government should have over education in the states.

NCLB became law in 2002, and Congress began trying to overhaul the law four years ago – with no success. They have until next year to complete the job.

President Obama Offered Waivers To States On September 23

Criticizing Congress for months of inaction in updating No Child Left Behind, President Obama on September 23 offered to lift the law’s most onerous provisions, including its 2014 deadline for bringing all students to proficiency in reading and math, for states that promise to follow his administration’s own school improvement agenda.

The Obama administration promised to waive cornerstone requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and reading/language arts, and to give states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals and design their own interventions for failing schools.

In exchange for that flexibility, the administration would require states to adopt standards for college and career readiness, focus improvement efforts on 15 percent of the most troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.

All that means that not much has changed: standardized test are still the chief measure, teachers will still be evaluated on how their students do on those tests, and the feds are still in charge.

Now It Gets Interesting

From The New York Times:

Finally this week legislation rewriting NCLB emerged, and the Senate Democrat whose committee passed the bill said on October 21 that progress became possible because lawmakers were irritated by the Obama administration’s offering states waivers to the law’s key provisions.

“Some of us on both sides of the aisle were upset with them coming out with the waiver package that they did, so that spurred us on,” Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who heads the Senate education committee, said in an interview. “It gave us a sense of urgency.”

Mr. Harkin’s committee voted 15 to 7 on Thursday to approve a bill that would greatly reduce Washington’s role in overseeing public schools. It was co-sponsored by Senator Michael B. Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who is the committee’s ranking minority member. Mr. Harkin called it “a good compromise bill” that would have bipartisan support in the full Senate.

The War Is On

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who had long criticized Congress for failing to rewrite the law, on Friday criticized the Harkin-Enzi bill, saying it compromises too much, particularly on teacher evaluations and student-achievement goals.

The Harkin-Enzi bill is the first No Child rewrite to gain committee approval since Congress began trying to overhaul the 2002 law four years ago. It would continue to require states to test students in grades 3 through 8 annually in reading and math, but would eliminate most provisions in the law that put the federal Department of Education in the position of supervising the performance of the nation’s 100,000 public schools.

Civil rights and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the legislation would so thoroughly eviscerate the federal role in school accountability that they could not support it.

Before Arne Can Pass Any Waivers

It looks like the idea is to get this legislation passed before Arne Duncan can issue any waivers. Like I said, the war is on.

Related Stories

Leaving Behind No Child Left Behind

Saying Goodbye To No Child Left Behind? Not So Fast

Photo Credit: Civil Rights


Karla B.
K B6 years ago

I agree with Kimberly that we should not blame the teachers for everything , but there are teachers who actually discourage students from learning with their negative remarks and attitude towards some students. We simply do not need sarcasm in the classroom! i remember brick in the wall by pink floyd .. it makes perfect sense ..

Karla B.
K B6 years ago

Please sign the following petition :
for ADD rights at school

John Coleman
John C6 years ago

Simple solution is to do away with the alleged Department of "Education" and all the wasted moving around of taxpayer money and get the inept Feds out of the "education" business. All it does is add additional bureaucracy, waste tax dollars, and lower standards in the delivery of education, Then Arne can go back to destroying Chicago schools again,

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti6 years ago

Thanks for the information

Terrell Rodefer
Terrell Rodefer6 years ago

I applied for and was accepted to tutor children with needs under the No Child Left Behind program. But I withdrew after the initial orientation. The program called for more time filling out forms on the computer per child per tutoring session than one would spend with the child. Probably, in my case, twice as much time, being still fairly new to computer systems. And we were warned that a form filled out incorrectly could result in not being paid for the tutoring session. In my mind's eye, I saw myself going half crazy at the computer trying to figure out how to successfully fill out those forms. I've been a full-time teacher in the past and done pretty well by my students... and would have enjoyed watching my assigned students make progress... but the weight of all the unnecessary (in my opinion) "paper" work (or whatever they would call filling out forms once paper on the computer) killed my interest. Teaching is a labor of love. Filling out forms... not so much.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

No Child Left Behind= No Child's Behind Left

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

I am not a fan of "no child left behind". It has teachers teaching to the test and some even cheating on the test scores so they look good. Many schools have dropped the fun part of learning. Things like a unit of butterflies, ect. is gone because it isn't on the test.The whole system needs to be revamped.

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

This law was flawed from the beginning. it needs a major overhaul. The current congress is about the most do nothing congress in my lifetime.

Kimberly J.
Kimberly J6 years ago


Stop blaming teachers when children fail. Secondary school teachers see the students for 50 min a day, 180 days a year. They can’t force the students to do the work or study for the tests. Parents need to be held accountable too. No more calling teachers & demanding that their child be given a passing grade for not doing the work. When the school calls & says that your child started a fight, punish the child. Stop giving the children expensive cell phones and Ipods that they just lose or have stolen. If they want those things, make the child earn them. Parents need to get involved in their child’s education. In my school district, there is a web site called Edline where parents can check their child’s grade & see if they have any homework. It even lists the child’s absences. Teachers are required to put the day’s lessons on it also in case a child was home sick. There is no cost to the parents. All they have to do is go to the school & create a user name & password.

Most politicians, especially Republicans don’t want high quality education. They don’t want educated voters who research the issues & think for themselves. Why do you think that whenever state budgets get tight, education is the first thing cut?

Kimberly J.
Kimberly J6 years ago

NCLB is a farce. There will always be children who are not on grade level in a particular subject. Some children will never be on grade level because they are mentally handicapped or learning disabled. Some children will never be on grade level because they don't want to be. The only thing that NCLB is doing is hurting teachers and students while enriching Neil Bush & his testing company.

Instead of being helped, poor performing schools (usually low income students), are punished by having funding removed & given to the high performing schools. Is it any wonder that schools cheat on the test? The federal govt needs to set national standards, fork over the money & then stay the heck out of education. The Secretary of Education at both the state & national levels needs to be a public school teacher, not some PhD who never taught a day in his life. High stakes standardized testing needs to go the way of the Dodo bird. Teachers need to be allowed to teach, not told to teach to the test. Yes, accountability is important, but high stakes standardized testing is not the answer.

Stop blaming teachers when children fail. Secondary school teachers see the students for 50 min a day, 180 days a year. They can’t force the students to do the work or study for the tests. Parents need to be held accountable too. No more calling teachers & demanding that their child be given a passing grade for not doing the work. When the school calls & says that your chi