Changes afoot for No Child Left Behind

States pushing back against testing, financial requirements of law as a Democratic Congress signals reforms will be part of reauthorization.

President Bush's No Child Left Behind law is coming up for reauthorization and Congress is mulling over changes to the five-year old law, reports Stateline.org.

Educators and governors are putting in their two cents to amend the new version of the five-year-old law, which has been criticized over costs, penalties and unprecedented federal oversight of school policy.

"Give me some more flexibility because I think we could do this better," said Wisconsin Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, representing the Council of Chief State School Officers, before a joint congressional hearing March 13.

The federal law requires annual testing in reading and math for grades 3-8 - and once in high school - with the goal of making all students proficient in all subjects by 2013-14. Failing schools are subject to penalties, from being forced to pay for tutoring to being taken over by the state.

States are responding to complaints regarding funding, focus on testing and the unrealistic goal of proficiency by 100 percent of students.

"We're doing something unique," said Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R), co-chairman of the National Governors Association's lobbying effort with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D). "The education issue is front and center now and so … it's important to take a key leadership role."

Advocates of No Child Left Behind point to recent tests that show today's 9-year-olds are better readers than at any point over the last 30 years. The act also has drawn attention to the achievement gap between white students and their minority peers.

Many states are considering bills to opt out of the law, according to Communities for Quality Education, an advocacy group that tracks state actions on the act.

"It's gone from open revolt on the part of some states to more of a simmering resentment about too many federal requirements and too little federal money," said Jack Jennings, the president and chief executive of the Center on Education Policy, a research organization that has monitored the law's effects.

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