Can Obama, Congress meet minds to revamp No Child Left Behind?
A new version of No Child Left Behind may target only the bottom 5 percent of schools for intervention. For most schools, mandates based on student test scores would be rolled back.
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Education experts and Washington insiders are split on the likelihood that a revised ESEA will go through in 2011.Skip to next paragraph
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Optimists say education can offer common ground to otherwise polarized parties.
"Key parts of Obama's education agenda and [his] ESEA blueprint ... contain elements that are really embraced by moderate and even some conservative Republicans," says Patrick McGuinn, a political science professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J. "Education is one of the leading issues [on which] a deal could be made" between Congress and the White House, he says.
Among the issues ripe for bipartisan agreement: more support for charter schools and a new emphasis on measuring teacher effectiveness.
Education observers will closely watch how strongly Mr. Obama pushes for the new law during his Jan. 25 State of the Union address. That week in the Senate, moderate Democrats led by Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Michael Bennet of Colorado are planning to introduce bills reflecting various components of the blueprint, an Education Department spokeswoman says.
If Congress does update the law before its August recess, "it's a potential win that everyone can come home with and campaign on," said Phillip Lovell, vice president of federal advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, during a recent webinar. The alliance pushes for higher standards and achievement in high schools.
But not everyone is confident that there will be a bipartisan meeting of the minds – or even agreement within each party – over how the law should achieve its goals.
"Choice, accountability – people are for those things, [but] there's a lot of disagreement underneath," says Andrew Rotherham, cofounder of Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit group working to improve education for low-income students.