For the next two years, the fate of No Child Left Behind is largely in the hands of Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who will take the helm of the House Education and Labor Committee in January. In a recent interview with several reporters, Kline said he wants to look at the landmark K-12 law in pieces because a large overhaul is too overwhelming. "I'm increasingly of the notion that we're going to do this in smaller steps rather than a big reauthorization," he said.
How this happens has yet to be determined. It's not clear it will work at all. Kline said he is well aware of the concern swirling among educators about the swiftly approaching 2014 proficiency deadline for schools. That benchmark date is the greatest impetus for reauthorizing No Child Left Behind because schools face punishments if they don't measure up. Some policymakers like Kline believe the assessments are confusing and sometimes counterintuitive. Special education also is a passion for Kline, who is frustrated that schools aren't given what they need in that area.
Above all, bipartisan agreement will be the driving force behind any change in the law.
Which "pieces" of the No Child Left Behind puzzle can be worked out on their own? What changes can be widely agreed upon? Benchmark reform? Special education funding? Teacher assessments? School accountability? Does it make sense to rework the law in small bites? If lawmakers manage to take the pressure off schools by adjusting the 2014 proficiency benchmarks, does that destroy the momentum for other changes that are harder to implement?