House Still Stalled On No Child Left Behind Revisions

In February of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives had intended to bring a long overdue resolution regarding an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the revision it made to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. However, their efforts were halted on what would be known as the Student Success Act (SSA), over concerns that the language of the current bill failed to go far enough to revise federal involvement in education. The Student Success Act had been designed to roll back the federal role in K-12 education significantly compared to NCLB and would put an end to current “waiver” relief from the federal sanctions.

Originally designed to compensating low-income school districts in an effort to narrow achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers, the ESEA has seen relatively few overhauls over the course of it’s 50 years as law. The most notable was the No Child Left Behind Act which created requirements for testing, accountability, and school improvement. NCLB has been slated for reauthorization since 2007. Since that time, Congress has failed to reach a consensus for revising the 600-page education law, which has left the No Child Left Behind Act only slightly altered since 2002.

In 2011, the Obama administration authorized a system of “waiver” relief system, which offered to waive requirements that include states meeting AYP targets and mandated interventions for districts failing to meet requirements to staff only “highly qualified teachers”, as legislators worked on an overhaul of the NCLB. While policymakers have long agreed that No Child Left Behind is broken there has been much debate about how much or little involvement the Federal government should have in terms of compensating educational institutions for compliance with certain national standards.

Conservative legislation like the A-Plus Act, hopes to help downsize federal intervention in education, place decisions about education spending and programs in the hands of state and local leaders, reduce the bureaucratic compliance burden, and begin to restore federalism in education. The recent failure to bring the SSA bill to vote this February is evidence that legislators are still struggling to find an approach that would balance the needs of school districts across the country and best facilitate quality education.

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