Just in time for the law's 10th anniversary this past Sunday, House Republicans led by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) have released draft legislation for revamping the No Child Left Behind Act. The bills would ease the federal government's grip on public schools, but are unlikely to be passed.
"We must revamp K-12 education law to ensure Washington does not stand in the way of meaningful reforms," said Kline, who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, in his announcement of the new legislation.
No Child Left Behind, which reauthorized the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, mandates the regular testing of students in math, reading and science. These test results have become a key lever in an accountability system that divides schools into those that are making "adequate yearly progress" and those that aren't. Poor rankings lead to increasingly stiff federal sanctions for schools, including the mandatory setting aside of No Child Left Behind money for tutoring and permission for students to transfer to nonfailing schools. By 2014, the law requires 100 percent of public schools to have students proficient in math and reading.
Reflecting Republican calls for greater local control of schools, Kline's proposals would severely minimize these federal sanctions and give states flexibility in distributing federal funds. Under his proposed Student Success Act, only schools that ranked in the lowest 5 percent would be held accountable under federal law; school districts would also devise their own turnaround plans for those schools. Also, states would no longer need to test students in science and would have more say over how they spent federal money. Kline's proposed Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act would mandate test-score-based teacher evaluations, increase school options for parents and eliminate several federal education programs.
"Regardless of the differences between elected leaders in Washington, education reform is an issue that will shape future generations, and we cannot afford to let the conversation stall," Kline said Friday.