Adam Dayan, Esq.
Waivers On NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND Requirements
The No Child Left Behind Law, for me, conjures up an image of a parent threatening and threatening and threatening to punish a child but never following through with that promise. In the same way it seems like No Child Left Behind might not live up to its promise, not if Secretary Duncan has anything to do with it. It's no secret that the goals in George W. Bush's famous education law - requiring 100% of students in public schools across the country to be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014 - are unrealistic. Our proficiency levels are nowhere even close to that (see the movie Waiting for Superman for more on this). NCLB provides for strict repercussions - such as school closures - if these proficiency goals are not met. This was probably a result of the country's obsession with accountability which influenced the passing of the law ten years ago and still remains an important part of the education debate today.
Secretary Duncan has spoken about the possibility of Congress amending and re-authorizing the law, and what action needs to be taken if Congress fails to do that. He has suggested using his "executive authority" to absolve states of some of these requirements by granting waivers...since NCLB provides that "the secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement of this act". According to some accounts, if we judged public schools right now according to the standards in NCLB, most would qualify as failing. I think that Secretary Duncan's outspokenness on this issue has reminded us that strict requirements for accountability and threats of closure alone are not enough to improve our education system and the way our children learn. Recognizing the ways that we screwed up with NCLB and figuring out what would be realistic goals for the next ten years is a pivotal step for the future of our country.