The reauthorization of NCLB has been a hot topic for the last couple years, and while everyone agrees it needs to happen, no one can agree on what should be included in a new bill. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D) and Sen. Michael Enzi (R) put forth their version of a bill, which sadly leaves much to be desired in the areas of accountability.
The biggest area of concern is the removal of states having to meet a certain standard, what is known as AYP. Now states just need their students to meet “continuous improvement”, which is vaguely explained as growth in academic achievement. While parts of the bill are giving more responsibility to states, the federal education department will still require states to adopt “college readiness” standards and will be heavily involved regarding intervening in dropout factories, or the lowest performing schools in the state. The interventions, much like the sanctions under NCLB are still weak and don’t focus on the real problems in educating low-income and urban students. See RiShawn Biddle’s essay on the topic here, and Kevin Chavous' piece here.
The recent granting of NCLB waivers based on agreeing with aspects of the federal education policy, and the codification of Race to the Top in the new bill raises more questions than answers as we look to the future of education reform in this country. Many states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana have governors in place willing to make education reform a priority. This bill does not give them or any state leaders the tools or resources to fix their public school system. Until states are empowered to make change, any attempt to reauthorize NCLB will not bring the changes needed to education in this country.