Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Bush, G.W.

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

The George W. Bush Years: NCLB - Bipartisan Support

When Margaret Spellings, President Bush's former education advisor in Texas and a leader of his first-term Domestic Policy Council, took office as secretary of education in early 2005, she indicated a greater willingness to work with states in creating a "commonsense approach" to NCLB. That may include greater flexibility in testing English language learners and students with disabilities, as well as changes in methods of calculating AYP. However, the administration indicated that annual testing, reporting of disaggregated data, improvement in teacher quality, and dissemination of school information and options to parents would not be compromised.

While NCLB implementation held a high profile in some states and localities, the opposite was true in Washington. Congress held few hearings on the issues, and neither the two parties nor the administration wanted the law opened to amendments. Congress deflected state and local concerns to the U.S. Department of Education for "administrative" resolution.

Democratic and Republican leaders have periodically reiterated their commitment to the basic structure of the law. Senator Ted Kennedy (D- MA), an early proponent of the law who was a leader in securing its passage, proposed bills in 2004 that would give districts and states more flexibility. In doing so, he stated that "it's important to acknowledge what this bill does not do. It does not make fundamental changes to the requirements under No Child Left Behind. Those reforms are essential to improving our public schools."


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