Alexander Proposes Legislation to Give States More Flexibility Under "No Child Left Behind"

Bill Would Allow for Contracts between States and Department of Education that Set Higher Achievement Standards

Posted on November 6, 2007

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced legislation to give up to 12 states greater flexibility in meeting No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirements in exchange for setting higher academic achievement standards. “One of the problems with No Child Left Behind is that it gives states incentive to set low standards because low standards are easier to meet,” said Alexander, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “This bill would allow states to enter into a contract to set higher standards so that students achieve better results while giving local schools greater flexibility to innovate.” Alexander’s proposal would grant up to 12 states the ability to enter into a five-year “State Student Achievement Contract” with the U.S. Department of Education. States would apply to the U.S. Secretary of Education to enter into the contract by outlining a comprehensive plan on how they intend to measure and enforce the rigorous achievement standards they set. Once a state has negotiated their Contract, the state will determine how they meet the already established achievement goals of NCLB. States will be granted greater flexibility: *in how to use the federal funds provided to the state under NCLB, *in how the state identifies annual school progress, and *in what methods are used to raise student achievement and school achievement when goals are not reached. To ensure accountability, the Secretary of Education will conduct an annual review of states that have been granted a contract and determine if the state’s achievement is consistent with the principles of NCLB’s standards-based accountability. The Secretary can withhold federal funds if a state is not meeting goals, and will report annually to Congress. “I’ve never seen a school get better when it is managed from a distance,” Alexander continued. “We need to take what we’ve learned in the first five years of NCLB and toss the ball back to the states to create simpler ways to measure high standards. The State Student Achievement Contract creates a pact between the Department of Education and the states – handing control back to states and local school boards while ensuring higher standards for our nation’s students.” Alexander is a former U.S. Secretary of Education and governor of Tennessee. Under his leadership as governor, Tennessee became the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well. Alexander serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee which is responsible for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.