Is NCLB like a subprime loan?
When NCLB went into effect in 2002, many state departments of education assumed that it was a fleeting thing - that surely by 2008 or 2009, requirements would have been eased, and there would be no need to take the steps required to dramatically increase academic performance rates. So they rigged the system, promising very modest improvements for the first several years of the law, and huge increases in the latter half. (Really pronounced differences - like 1% improvements in each of the first several years, followed by annual improvements of 10% or more each subsequent year.)
Since the law hasn't been revised - and isn't likely to be for some time, with neither candidate calling for dismantling it, and with education taking a back seat to more pressing issues in the immediate future - they're now on the hook to produce these huge gains.
And it's happening just as we're experiencing an economic meltdown of sorts, affecting K-12 budgets in just about every state (in some cases dramatically). Which really puts them in a bind: for those schools and districts who repeatedly fail to make promised improvements, there won't be enough resources for remediation or reconstitution. But at the same time, states can't really opt out of NCLB - Title I is an important revenue stream, and opting out means not being eligible for participation.
What happens next? I don't know - but I've heard people use the phrase "perfect storm" more than a few times, and it may be appropriate from the look of things.