Congress might be close to an overhaul of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the North Carolina State Board of Education is preparing for the reboot.
The education reform bill headed to the U.S. Senate would reauthorize NCLB with sweeping changes. One change prevents states from opting out of parts of the law through waivers. North Carolina is one of 43 states that has a waiver from sanctions and requirements imposed by the current NCLB.
State board member A.L. Collins said no waiver means North Carolina would have to revise its education policy.
"We’re going to have to compare what we’re doing under the waiver with what we’re required to do under law and make changes to comply with the law," Collins said.
At the board meeting, Collins said he is "cautiously optimistic," about the proposed NCLB rewrite.
"I think it will be a new day in education for us," he said. "And I think we’ll have a lot more flexibility than we’ve had in the past."
Collins said while the bill ends waivers, overall it gives more power to the states in making education policy decisions.
"I’m being told by folks that it is lessening the federal control and giving states more flexibility and more control, which is what we all want," he said.
The reauthorization bill passed the House Wednesday. The Senate plans to take its vote next week.
NCLB is a federal law rolled out under the George W. Bush Administration in 2001. NCLB is itself a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provided federal funding to high-poverty schools and increased the role of the federal government in education.
The standardized testing required by NCLB has revealed achievement gaps between low-income students and students of color and their counterparts. The law has faced pushback because of the increased amount of standardized testing it imposed on schools, and because of the sanctions schools face for having consistently low student performance.
In 2011, the Obama administration invited states to request waivers from some requirements of NCLB, including its sanctions. In exchange, states must develop their own education policy plans that meet certain criteria.