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Despite that odd convergence of interests, the passage of a new education law still seems like a long shot this year. More immediate issues like budget fights about continuing to fund the federal government are so far dominating attention on Capitol Hill. At the same time, many new members of Congress are still getting up to speed on No Child Left Behind and are in no hurry to act until they do. After Obama's speech on Monday, House Education and Workforce Committee chairman John Kline released a statement basically saying, Thanks, but we'll do this on our own timeline.
More substantively there are still big areas of disagreement not only between the two parties but within each party, too, and also between the House and the Senate. Differences over how to measure school performance and teacher performance, and how to deal with low-performing schools, are among the thorny issues.
Most problematic, however, is that there is no action-forcing mechanism. Or to put it another way, almost nothing happens if Congress doesn't act. Despite all the hysterical rhetoric, No Child Left Behind's famous (or infamous) 2014 deadline for student proficiency on state tests isn't really a deadline at all. The way the policy works, schools still have several more years after that to meet state performance targets, and even then, if they don't, the consequences are not a big deal except for the absolutely lowest-performing schools. Congress, meanwhile, continues to appropriate money for the law regardless of whether it's revised or not. These days not a lot happens in Washington absent a meaningful deadline, and there is not one here.
The specter of 80% of schools not meeting performance targets garnered a few headlines but did not change the underlying calculus. So despite the Administration's efforts this past week, the political math is about the same today as it was a week ago. Not good news for those hoping for fast action to change No Child Left Behind.
Rotherham, who writes the blog Eduwonk, is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education, a nonprofit working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. School of Thought, his education column for TIME.com, appears every Thursday.