“We’re not going to sit here and do nothing,” Duncan told NYT reporters in a Friday conference call. “Our first priority is to have Congress rewrite the law. If that doesn’t get done, we have the obligation to provide relief in exchange for reform.”
The state reforms for which he will waive certain requirements of the law include efforts to expanding charter schools, link teacher evaluations to student achievement, and overhaul the lowest-performing schools.
Duncan says the department is talking to state officials, teachers and parents about possible ways to help schools if the law isn't renewed and reformed this year. He says any action taken by his department won't prevent Congress from continuing to negotiate the bill's re-authorization
Should Duncan proceed with "Plan B," Maryland -- along with a number of other states that have already embraced Duncan's reforms -- will likely be the first to receive waivers.
"The stakes are high," said Duncan in a Sunday POLITICO Op-Ed. "As it currently exists, NCLB is creating a slow-motion educational train wreck for children, parents and teachers. Under the law, an overwhelming number of schools in the country may soon be labeled as 'failing,' eventually triggering impractical and ineffective sanctions.
"To avoid these sanctions, many states have lowered academic standards instead of making them more rigorous," he added.
Although both parties generally agree that No Child Left Behind -- which has been up for renewal since 2007 -- is heavily flawed, not everyone is happy with Duncan's bold plan.
"It seems premature at this point to take steps outside the legislative process that would address NCLB's problems in a temporary and piecemeal way,' said Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, to reporters.