"In effect, [Duncan] was saying we need to act immediately, but then let's do more listening and waiting," Smarick said.
Furthermore in this tough political climate, passing a reform bill may be easier said than done.
"The biggest challenge in getting this reauthorized is the politics of it -- what type of legislative plan could get support in both the House and Senate," Smarick said. "The amazing thing is that people have been making predictions since 2006 that NCLB reauthorization was going to happen, so you have to be skeptical of anyone who says that reauthorization is going to happen soon."
Overall, the secretary agreed that new standards must be clearly outlined, but that states should continue to play a large role.
"We should be tight on the goals -- with clear standards set by states that truly prepare young people for college and careers -- but we should be loose on the means for meeting those goals," he said.
Earlier this year, 48 states and the District of Columbia agreed to adopt uniform standards in math and language arts.
Several stakeholders raised concerns about accountability going forward.
"It's always very important to embrace higher standards, but let's not be too loose on the accountability side," said Arthur Rothkopf, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. "We need to have real compliance."
Others are concerned that NCLB testing has narrowed the focus of academic success, something they feel must be reversed.
"The assessment system … we must think about sciences, the arts, creativity," said Santa Clara County, Calif., Superintendent Charles Weiss. "What gets assessed is what gets taught."
Smarick, however, noted that broadening the range of what gets taught and evaluated "means that you need to create even more tests, and a lot of people would be opposed to that. Most educators want fewer tests -- not more."