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No Child Left Behind Revisions Not Expected Until 2015

by Michael Higham, published

School Desk with Textbook by Cameron Cross via School Desk with Textbook by Cameron Cross via

No Child Left Behind revisions have been on hold since the law's expiration in 2007, but it has yet to be updated. The U.S. Department of Education has allowed states to opt out of the law's accountability measures upon approval of a waiver. However, the patchwork system of waivers is not intended to be a sustainable replacement for NCLB and a revision is not expected for another two years.

According to a Whiteboard Advisors survey, almost two-thirds of education experts do not believe federal education will be amended until 2015. Ed Source reports that those surveyed are "current and former governors and education experts in the White House, Congress and the Department of Education." Tweet stat: Tweet

No Child Left Behind was the moniker for the 2002 update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The following graph displays at what point in time a reauthorization of ESEA was expected:

Credit: Whiteboard Advisors/

No Child Left Behind Revisions

So, why does a law that expired nearly six years ago still govern the education system? Education writer, Valerie Strauss, explained the conundrum of federal education law in the Washington Post:

"The No Child Left Behind Act actually set to expire on Sept. 30, 2007. Congress passes laws with the intent that they will expire after a certain period of time, most often five years. This is supposed to force Congress to update and/or fix a law, with some history of implementation to back it up. However, if Congress somehow doesn’t get around to taking a new look at a law, its authority doesn’t go away; it stays intact until a new law is passed." Tweet quote: Tweet

On February 7, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions held a hearing where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended ESEA flexibility waivers. The Education Department summarized the hearing by stating that a waiver system was not the most wanted solution, but the most viable in the absence of congressional action: Tweet the news: Tweet

"[Sec. Duncan] would have preferred that Congress reauthorize, or amend the law instead. But in light of congressional gridlock over reauthorization, Duncan said that he was 'not willing to stand by idly and do nothing while students and educators continue to suffer under NCLB.'"

The Senate committee looked into the Education Department's authority to grant waivers. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated that the department has been granting waivers in exchange for reforms, sidestepping NCLB all too often. Although these exist for certain circumstances, Sen. Alexander acknowledged that Congress has been too slow to act. Tweet at @SenAlexander: Tweet

The No Child Left Behind Act aimed to have 100 percent of students scoring proficiency in standardized tests by 2014. States that are not exempt from NCLB could be held accountable for not making the goal if there is no revision of federal education law. However, it is unlikely that an administration that does not endorse NCLB would force states to handover under-performing schools to federal authority.

Secretary Duncan and President Obama proposed a revision of No Child Left Behind in 2010, but it was at the bottom of Congress' to do list. The revision is titled, "A Blueprint For Reform."

The next step in federal education law has been put aside for almost six years and Congress has shown little effort to work on its revision. State and local education agencies without NCLB waivers face an uncertain relationship with the federal government in the future.

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