What lies in the future for NCLBA is unclear, but it is clear that many states and school districts will simultaneously strive to implement its requirements, while challenging certain provisions in court, in legislatures, and by lobbying the Department of Education. Changes to the law will no doubt be made, but Congress appears committed to continued overall support of the program. The law is up for reauthorization in 2007.
There is some evidence that the federal government is moving towards more flexibility in the implementation of No Child Left Behind. This approach coincides with the appointment in late 2004 of Margaret Spellings as Secretary of Education. In January 2005 Spellings replaced Rod Paige; Paige had garnered a fairly hard-nosed reputation in his approach to implementing No Child Left Behind. In April 2005, Spellings said she wanted to take a “common sense” approach to implementing the law. Then the Department of Education announced plans to promote flexibility in parts of NCLBA, including assessment of students with significant cognitive disabilities, assessment of limited English proficient students, determination of when teachers meet the highly qualified definition in NCLBA, and calculation of rates of participation in state assessments to determine is schools and districts have met their AYP goals. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Secretary Spellings gave her approval to allow some schools and districts heavily affected by the storms to create separate subgroups of displaced students for the 2005–2006 year. Students in those subgroups will not be counted in any other subgroup when calculating progress for the year.
In November 2005, Spellings announced a pilot plan to allow ten states to better gauge student progress over the long term, rather than just year to year. The program is intended to allow schools to demonstrate that they are not failing, even when their test scores are not high. Schools will set test-score goals specific to that school. In making the announcement, Secretary Spellings said, “[The] growth model is not a way around accountability standards. It’s a way for states that are already raising achievement and following the bright-line principles of the law to strengthen accountability … There are many different routes for states to take … but they must all lead to closing the achievement gap and every student reaching grade level by 2014.”