NCLB - No Child Left Behind - is the federal education law that has imposed unrealistic mandates on states for the last 14 years.

Specifically, its "test, blame, and punish" approach tied federal education aid into standardized test performance. Now, thanks to members' activism, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are poised to make significant improvements.

There stands an excellent chance that by the new year, President Obama will have signed a new, vastly improved national education law – the seventh reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Ending NCLB and replacing it with a law that focuses on opportunity for all students is a goal that NEA has been focused on throughout the process.

In July, both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed ESEA reauthorizations – the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) and the Student Success Act (SSA), respectively. The two bills are similar in some ways and different in others. It is these differences that Senate and House education committee staff and leaders are ironing out to produce a joint, bipartisan ESEA bill that President Obama can sign into law.

Specifically, NEA believes that the final bill should:

  • Mandate that states accountability plans include key supports so that all students have a chance to learn.
  • Reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools and decouple high-stakes decision-making and statewide standardized tests.
  • Ensure educator voice in decision making at all levels of government.

The Senate, in particular, addressed all these key issues. Unfortunately, the current House version includes so-called "Title I Portability," which permits federal funding for disadvantaged children to "follow" students to a public school of their choice (essentially a backdoor to vouchers), which NEA strongly opposes. Read more about the voucher expansion.

Nothing is certain with Congress – bills can be easily derailed – but the finish line for ESEA reauthorization is in sight, and educators and parents have been urging lawmakers to stay focused and deliver a new law. In early November, a coalition of ten leading education and parent organizations, including the NEA, launched a digital campaign urging Congress to "get ESEA done."

Our Rhode Island Congressional delegation - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, and Rep. Jim Langevin and David Cicciline - has been 100 percent in agreement with NEA's position, and has been working to achieve a new ESEA. Thank them for their efforts on behalf of all students.