"We've offered every state the same deal," Obama said. "If you're willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by NoChild Left Behind, then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards."
The executive action by Obama is one of his most prominent in an ongoing campaign to act on his own where Congress is rebuffing him.
No Child Left Behind was one of President George W. Bush's most touted domestic accomplishments, and was passed with widespread bipartisan support in Congress. It has been up for renewal since 2007. But lawmakers have been stymied for years by competing priorities, disagreements over how much of a federal role there should be in schools and, in the recent Congress, partisan gridlock.
The law requires annual testing, and districts were forced to keep a closer eye on how students of all races were performing — not just relying on collective averages. Schools that didn't meet requirements for two years or longer faced increasingly harsher consequences, including busing children to higher-performing schools, offering tutoring and replacing staff.
Over the years, the law became increasingly unpopular, itself blamed for many ills in schools. Teachers and parents complained it led to "teaching to the test." Parents didn't like the stigma of sending their kids to a school labeled a failure when requirements weren't met. States, districts and schools said the law was too rigid and that they could do a better job coming up with strategies to turn around poor performance.
A common complaint was that the 2014 deadline was simply unrealistic.