From today's New York Times on the "whittling down" of No Child Left Behind through waivers granted to (at last count) 26 states:
While No Child Left Behind has been praised for forcing schools to become more accountable for the education of poor and minority children, it has been derided for what some regard as an obsessive focus on test results, which has led to some notorious cheating scandals. Critics have also faulted the law’s system of rating schools, which they say labeled so many of them low performing that it rendered the judgment meaningless.
In exchange for the education waivers, schools and districts must promise to set new targets aimed at preparing students for colleges and careers. They must also tether evaluations of teachers and schools in part to student achievement on standardized tests. The use of tests to judge teacher effectiveness is a departure from No Child Left Behind, which used test scores to rate schools and districts.
Congress has tried and failed repeatedly to reauthorize the education law over the past five years because Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on an appropriate role for the federal government in education. And so, in the heat of an election year, the Obama administration has maneuvered around Congress, using the waivers to advance its own education agenda.