Congress passed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in the early part of this decade. NCLB was comprehensive school reform legislation which — among other things — was aimed at ensuring every child performs and tests at grade level in reading and math by 2014.
If current trends continue, no state will meet NCLB progress and achievement goals. In order to deal with the fallout, states are now requesting waivers from NCLB provisions. On September 26th, North Carolina joined with about forty other states and made a formal waiver request (see press release on waiver).
The practice of granting waivers raises new legal and constitutional questions. The Obama administration is willing to grant waivers if states agree to principles outlined in Blueprint for Reform, the administration’s proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NCLB’s parent legislation. Many conservatives contend waivers will allow the administration in essence to craft a new law even if it is only “principles” that are agreed upon.
I’m bemused by the waiver developments. NCLB was propelled by an emphasis on accountability. Now after years of little progress and the realization that federal goals will not be met, the states and feds agree to change the rules to save national embarrassment. Such realities make it even more puzzling why states continue to embrace efforts to federalize public education.