Just as students are heading back to school, frustration with the federal No Child Left Behind education law is hitting new heights at the grass-roots level from Maine to California.
"There is a palpable increase in the level of dissatisfaction that I see, but it's not being translated into legislation in Congress," says Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy in Washington. "There's really a disjuncture here between a growing dissatisfaction and the lack of a political response."
Although test scores are going up, they were before NCLB was passed, as well. That's because of state education reforms and testing protocols put into place over the past 25 years. Indeed, there's been no research to determine which reforms get credit for the increasing scores. But many teachers and local legislators credit the earlier state improvements, and they're concerned that NCLB mandates are actually undermining their students' long-term success.
Several US representatives and senators are reportedly working on bills to amend NCLB in the upcoming legislative session, but few education experts believe it will happen before 2007, when the law comes up for reauthorization. But as the calls for change increase on the local level, that may change.
"I think the dissatisfaction will continue to grow," says Reggie Felton, director of federal relations with the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va. "That will result in a stronger sense of urgency in congressional districts, which will then result in members of Congress saying, 'We can't wait. We must act now because I'm up for reelection."
And today Connecticut finally has sued. So we continue to wait and see.