By Rehema Ellis, NBC News correspodent
The No Child Left Behind Act has stirred up criticism from politicians, educators and parents. It's not wonder. In an effort fix everything that is failing American students the law is over 1000 pages long. It reaches into American classrooms overshadowing how teachers teach and what students learn. Many complain the law suggests there's one general way to fix schools no matter that many of the nation's 97,000 public schools have extremely different problems.
Still, despite what critics say are it's shortcomings of the law, few advocate tossing it out. Even the presidential candidates have said they don't want to nix No Child Left Behind, they want to make it better. And while there's talk about appropriating more money to the law, many experts say, the concern over No Child Left Behind is not just about money.
So how could the law be better? A lot of experts say the law could be greatly improved if it were more realistic about whether EVERY public school student across the country can be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
What does that mean? Well, it means that every student has to meet federal target test scores in six years. Critics say that's just setting American kids up to fail again. No country in the world, not even our staunchest competitors, can claim 100 percent proficiency for all of its students in key subjects. America, no matter how well intended, can't go from decades of failing students to record educational achievement in a matter of a few short years.
The good news -- now almost seven years after No Child Left Behind was passed-- there seems to be a growing sentiment to adjust some of the law's most stringent mandates. From what I can tell, it's not an admission or an attempt to go back to the old ways and leave some children -- particularly minorities, inner city kids and the disabled -- out of the accountability equation. Instead, people concerned about educating children seem to be saying let's look more carefully at what is right and what's wrong under No Child Left Behind. Let's examine teaching methods, test standards and scores, and provide greater support systems for schools and teachers, many experts say, and move forward from there. The reason to do this is clear: Out of 22 industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks 19, just above Mexico in graduating students from high school. 40 years ago America was number one. There are a lot of different interests groups all with different notions about what it will take to be Number One again. No doubt all of them will want to be heard when a new administration takes over the White House. Hopefully, they'll also be eager to listen.