Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said both proposed revisions from the House and Senate committees to No Child Left Behind will most likely not move forward. (Safiya Merchant/Medill)


WASHINGTON — Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the nation’s mayors Wednesday that 11 states have submitted proposals to be exempted from portions of the No Child Left Behind law and he will approve them within weeks.

No Child Left Behind, the education reform law pushed by President George W. Bush and enacted in 2002, requires increased accountability for schools and strict standards for teachers and students, and ties federal funding to meeting those requirements.  It has been awaiting a reauthorization in Congress for four years; instead, lawmakers have approved annual renewals.

Duncan said the law needs major revisions. He added that the Senate’s version of the reauthorization is better than the House effort, although it does not have enough accountability measures.

“We desperately hope that it will be reauthorized in a bipartisan way,” Duncan said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “I think education work has to be done in a nonpartisan, nonideological, bipartisan way.”

However, he predicted, “I don’t think either one of those is going forward any time soon.”

In addition to using the waivers to earn more flexibility in achieving NCLB requirements, other federal funding sources that allow schools to exercise more innovation in progress include the School Improvement grants, Promise Neighborhoods grants and the Investing in Innovation Fund.

In the first round of Promise Neighborhood grants, Duncan said, he received 300 applications but only had funding enough for 20. For the innovation funds, only 49 out of 1,700 applicants could receive funding.

He also touted his Race to the Top program. For the next funding cycle, Congress has approved $550 million.

Later, in an appearance at the National Data Summit, Duncan showed his support of a data-driven system of school, student and teacher evaluation.

The secretary cited examples from his time as head of Chicago’s public schools before joining the Obama administration  as a reason to use data, such as how Chicago increased access to advanced placement classes to black and Latino students after realizing they did not have as many of these resources as other students.

“Without that kind of information, there is no way we would have been able to adjust our strategies to try and get more young people a chance to be successful,” Duncan said.