The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 set ambitious new goals when it required the states to improve public schooling for all students — and to educate poor children up to the same standards as their affluent counterparts — in exchange for federal aid. The country still has a long way to go to reach those goals. And they will never be met if Congress, which must now reauthorize the law, backs away from provisions that hold schools accountable for how well and how much children learn.
The country’s largest teachers’ union, the politically powerful National Education Association, would like to see the law gutted. Fortunately, the chairman of the House education committee, George Miller, Democrat of California, has resisted those pressures. Even so, his proposed changes in the law’s crucial accountability provisions, put forth in a draft version of the House bill, may need to be recast to prevent states from backing away from the central mission of the law.