Now, as the president and the same Democrats push to renew the landmark law, which has reshaped the face of American education with its mandates for annual testing, discontent with it in many states is threatening to undermine the effort in both parties.
Arizona and Virginia are battling the federal government over rules for testing children with limited English. Utah is fighting over whether rural teachers there pass muster under the law. And Connecticut is two years into a lawsuit arguing that No Child Left Behind has failed to provide states federal financing to meet its requirements.
Reacting to such disputes in state after state, dozens of Republicans in Congress are sponsoring legislation that would water down the law by allowing states to opt out of its testing requirements yet still receive federal money.
On the other side of the political spectrum, 10 Democratic senators signed a letter last month saying that based on feedback from constituents, they consider the law’s testing mandates to be “unsustainable” and want an overhaul.
“It’s going to be a brawl,” said Jack Jennings, a Democrat who as president of the Center on Education Policy has studied how the law has been set up in the 50 states. “The law is drawing opposition from the right because they are opposed to federal interference and from the left because of too much testing.”