There's an interesting full-page ad in today's Washington Post and New York Times, entitled "A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education": http://www.boldapproach.org/bold_approach_full_statement.pdf. It's signed by a list of luminaries, including several Clinton Administration appointees, but also people like Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, and Richard Rothstein , Lawrence Mishel, William Julius Wilson, Ernesto Cortes and others.
While criticizing NCLB for focusing solely on school improvement, the statement calls for a greater emphasis on addressing out-of-school factors like children's health, as well as early-childhood education, and a saner approach to accountability. "Broad" it certainly is. Not very many specifics. But I suspect it will have a significant impact in reframing the debate over NCLB reauthorization -- from how to "fix NCLB" to a comprehensive discussion of the federal role in education. Assuming that the Democrats retain control of Congress (whether or not they win the White House), I expect that these will be the parameters of the debate next year.
This is a positive development, in my view, and it's consistent with other efforts now under way. One involves the Forum on Educational Accountability (http://edaccountability.org/), the coalition of 140-odd education and civil rights groups whose Joint Statement the Institute has endorsed. It's now working on more detailed papers.
Perhaps most important is work by the Forum on Education and Democracy, which released a paper a few weeks ago ("Democracy at Risk") that does offer quite a few specifics about the federal role: http://www.forumforeducation.org/foruminaction/index.php?page=31&item=430.