January 2002: President Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law.

What you need to know about the law:

  • The goal of No Child Left Behind was to hold schools accountable for the performance of all students based on State standards in reading and mathematics, annual testing for grades 3-8 and annual statewide progress objectives. All students had to perform at grade level in reading and mathematics by 2014.
  • Assessment results and State progress objectives were to be separated by poverty, race, ethnicity, disability and limited English proficiency to ensure that no group was left behind.
  • Resources were to be better targeted to school districts with high concentrations of poor children and to give states and districts more flexibility in how they spent a portion of their federal allotments.

Why the law is disliked:

  • Some think that the 2014 goal is unrealistic.
  • Teachers and parents think it led to teaching to the test.

September 2011: President Obama offers to lift the 2014 deadline for states that promise to follow his administration's school improvement agenda.

What you need to know about this agenda:

  • States that agree to overhaul low-performing schools and adopt more rigorous teacher evaluation systems may apply for a waiver for relief from the deadline.
  • States that receive waivers may then design their own school accountability systems.

What states have received waivers:

  • Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee
  • New Mexico applied and did not get it. The state is working with the administration to get approval.
  • 28 other states have signaled that they plan to seek a waiver.

Why the waiver plan is disliked:

  • Congressional Republicans see it as executive overreach.
  • Civil rights groups think schools are getting a waiver on helping poor and minority children.

What's happening now:

  • Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, released new legislation Thursday to rewrite No Child Left Behind. It included a provision that would prohibit the education secretary from persuading states into adopting specific academic standards in exchange for a waiver.