A waiver by any other name is still a waiver

So, it's official:? today the Obama Administration, according to Sam Dillon at the New York Times, ?will offer to waive central provisions of the No Child Left Behind law for states that embrace his educational agenda, essentially ending his predecessor's signature accountability measure, which has defined public school life nationwide for nearly a decade.?

Sounds pretty drastic.? And, indeed, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, head of the House Education and Workforce Committee, says it

sets a dangerous precedent. Make no mistake ? this is a political move that could have a damaging impact on Congressional efforts to enact lasting reforms to current elementary and secondary education law.

But before leaping for joy about the death of the wicked NCLB witch of the east (or west), or condemning the waiver option, we need remember who NCLB was meant to help; that is, kids.? Of course, the law's reach was farther than its grasp. Of course, its standards were onerous. Of course, teacher unions hated it.? Of? course, state and district education bureaucrats saw it as a nettlesome intrusion.? But there are today tens of thousands of students who have had an opportunity to get educated that they would not have had without NCLB; there are thousands of special ed kids who have been given the opportunity to learn what their more abled compatriots learn; and many more thousands of poor and minority children have been brought to the front of the bus of putative integrated schools thanks to NCLB.

No, those who believe that the rollback of NCLB is a victory for students are mistaken.

As Margaret Spellings, the Secretary of Education who shepherded NCLB to its hugely bipartisan passage? in 2001 and oversaw its rollout, told the Wall Street Journal,

If these waivers allow the state to promise the sun and the moon and then not follow through?which some of them are famous for doing?then we will see a retrenchment of accountability....

To their credit, Obama and Duncan, are promising a portfolio of quid pro quos that are supposed to ensure the continued focus on accountability.? The proof will be in that pudding; let's hope it's quickly served.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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