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How Our Nation’s No Child Left Behind Policy Came to Be: A History



The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is making national headlines again as federal lawmakers debate changes to NCLB proposed by the chairman of the Senate education committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

If you’re the parent of a public school student right now, you might not have had a school-aged child when NCLB was enacted as a federal law thirteen years ago. If that’s the case, we hope that this NCLB timeline will help you to feel better informed as Sen. Alexander and others in Washington debate NCLB:

* January 23, 2001: Just days after taking office, President George W. Busch presented one of his first Congressional initiatives, NCLB.

* January 8, 2002: Congress enacted NCLB as “an act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.” The bill was passed by bipartisan majorities. (Source)

* 2004: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) initiated meetings between “more than 135 national civil rights, education, disability advocacy, civic, labor and religious groups” to create a proposal for fundamental changes to NCLB. (Source)

* October 2004: FairTest released its NCLB proposal, calling for changes to federal education law. The goal? To replace NCLB’s emphasis on standardized test scores with rewards for “systematic changes that improve student improvement.” (Source)

Read More about FairTest’s Proposal: The Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind.

* February 2007: The Aspen Commission on NCLB, an independent, bipartisan effort to improve NCLB, released its final recommendations—a set of “specific and actionable policy recommendations,” some of which called for stricter federal enforcement of state educational standards and accountability. (Source)

* 2007: A working group of the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB—the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA)—countered the Aspen Commission with its recommendation “to shift NCLB from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to supporting state and communities and hold them accountable as they make systematic changes that improve student learning.” (Source)

* 2009: Race to the Top (RTTT)—a $4.35 billion reform initiative from the Department of Education was launched by the U.S. Department of Education to spur innovation in education. RTTT was funded by ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. RTTT rewarded states for meeting performance-based educator standards and following other educational policies. (Source)

* March 2010: President Barack Obama “released a blueprint for reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” (ESEA) which preceded NCLB. The President urged a shift from the “punishment” mentality that concerned NCLB opponents to a system that focused on student improvement. The President also revised ESEA to include assessments for modern skills like technology use and effective communications. The President proposed a $2 billion increase in the federal budget to help schools meet the bill’s mandates. (Source)

* 2012: The President waived or conditionally waived NCLB requirements to Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin. These states “have agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness.” (Source)*

* 2012: A Gallup poll revealed general public dissatisfaction with NCLB. Only 16% thought that NCLB improved education, and “67% felt that it had made no difference or made things worse.” (Source)

* January 2015: Senate education committee chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) proposed major changes to NCLB that would shift the onus of educational policy-making back to individual states.

NCLB will continue to lead education news on the national stage over the coming weeks. Come back often to the Missouri Parent Blog for NCLB updates. Bookmark the blog, and connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates on legislation and funding issues affecting Missouri schools.

*In order to earn waivers, states were required to “produce their own plans for enhancing teacher competence and academic standards as well as implementing ways to track progress.”

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