No Child Left Behind

One by one states are refusing to play by the education rules set by the federal government under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Whether the ‘rebellion’ turns out to be the action of two or three ‘renegade’ states, or the beginning of a much wider revolution is something many education policymakers are watching closely.

On June 29, South Dakota’s Secretary of Education Melody Shopp announced the state will defy NCLB rules by using 2009-2010 goals rather than higher expectations required for the 2010-2011 school year as required by NCLB guidelines. She also notified U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan the state will reduce its graduation rate goal to 80 percent from its current 85 percent.

When Congress will act to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – and what it will look like is anybody’s guess. However, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is signaling he is willing use his executive authority to free states from one of the law’s cornerstones that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. 

This SLC Issue Alert examines developments regarding the No Child Left Behind Act in 2011.

It was nearly one year ago when I met with an official from the U.S. Department of Education for an informal discussion of a variety of education initiatives, including reauthorization of the Elementary  and Secondary Education Act, better known as “No Child Left Behind.” At that time, I was assured the U.S. DOE was confident that Congress would vote on the reauthorization sometime in 2010.

One year and a new Congress later, any progress (if it has occurred) can be measured only incrementally.

The Obama administration is taking steps to engage the states in a new dialogue to address issues facing education in the U.S. today. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago school superintendent is leading the charge to spark reform in the nation’s schools. He’s open to anything that will address underperforming schools and close the achievement gap, and that includes altering the way education funding is awarded as well as supporting changes states are already making. “My only goal is success,” he said. Capitol Ideas visited with Duncan about the issues.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, The Council of State Governments recognizes that to compete with their international peers, American students must graduate from high school college and career ready.  If implemented properly and funded, ESEA reforms could be long-term steps towards economic recovery and sustainability;

CSG South

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act celebrated its sixth anniversary on January 8, 2008, four months beyond the date on which it was due for reauthorization. NCLB is the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which has guided federal education policy since its first passage in 1965. The sweeping legislation, passed with bipartisan support, has become a galvanizing political issue. It is appropriate and necessary that state legislators are a part of the debate on reauthorizing the Act. Education is the single largest budget item for almost all states, and there are few other pieces of federal legislation that have had such an impact on state educational expenditures and policy as NCLB. Over the past several years, the Education Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference has held a number of discussions on the Act and its implications for state policy. From these reflections on the Act and its impacts on states it is possible to draw some conclusions for guiding the reauthorization and continued implementation of NCLB.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, The Council of State Governments calls upon the federal education policymakers to work closely with state and local education officials during NCLB reauthorization to examine how NCLB is working in their communities and where improvements are needed, while maintaining a focus on accountability and standards. At the same time the federal government must live up to its commitment and provide the necessary financial resources to implement the mandates in NCLB by fully funding Title I programs to low-income school districts, Teacher Quality Grants, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other important programs under NCLB.


Editor’s Note: The following is the executive summary of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, prepared by the U.S. Department of Education on January 7, 2002. More detailed information and the text of the act are available through the department’s Web site at