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No Child Left Behind: Bush Law Gutted By Obama Administration Turns 11

01/09/2013 01:03 pm ET | Updated Mar 11, 2013

Yesterday, No Child Left Behind, the Bush-era big government education law, turned 11. We had a lot more to say about this on the tenth anniversary, but the 11th is worth noting for one simple reason: the law doesn't really exist anymore! At least, not as we knew it.

Let me back up a bit.

Once upon a time, Republicans and Democrats in Congress got together (for real!) to pass a sweeping education law. The law was a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Lawmakers from all backgrounds recognized the need for drastic change in education policy due to yawning gaps in performance between students of different backgrounds. So they decided to tweak the country's overarching federal school funding stream, and required results from states in exchange for providing that money. No Child Left Behind, as it came to be known, required the regular standardized testing of students in English and math. President George W. Bush got all excited and called it the beginning of "a new era, a new time in public education." (For some more background, see here.)

It didn't quite work out the way Dubya planned.

The law's successes, proponents say, include test score increases on national exams, and a harsh light shone on the achievement gap. Definitely. But the law is widely believed to have come short in one big way: it painted schools as underperforming with too broad a brush, making it hard to distinguish schools that were simply less than good from dropout factories.

Also worth noting: the law expired in 2007! And it hasn't been renewed since then. Because, you know, Congress.

So when Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, he promised to shut down NCLB. While he hasn't exactly done that, he's come close. Along with his education secretary Arne Duncan, he has offered states relief in the form of waivers from the laws most stringent provisions -- in exchange for an agreement to follow aspects of the Obama education agenda. So far, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have received waivers, so in more than half of all states, No Child Left Behind as we knew it ceases to exist. Kind of a sad birthday gift!

On that note, here are a few memorable NCLB headlines from the last year:

And here are some thoughts on the law's 11th anniversary:

-Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House education committee, bemoans the "patchwork" waivers.
"Eleven years ago Congress turned the lights on in our schools when it enacted the No Child Left Behind Act. Prior to NCLB only a handful of states had access to data that showed student achievement broken down by gender, ethnicity, income, or English proficiency," Miller wrote on a statement. "Congress' failure to rewrite NCLB has left our nation with a patchwork of state systems and temporary relief from specific provisions of the law," Miller added. He called on Congress to take the issue up again.

-Rand Corporation has five suggestions for improving the law. Priorities for Rand include syncing up states' proficiency standards and looking at subjects outside of just reading and math.

-UCLA Professor John Rogers: "I think that the strategies of providing states waivers was a way for the US Department of Education to ease the pressures without having to back away from its claims of upholding high standards."