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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Child Left Behind: Revamped and Revved Up

Yesterday White House Policy Director Melonie Barnes and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with reporters in the White House briefing room to discuss measures to improve on the Bush era No Child Left Behind act (NCLB).

The act required all government-run schools, receiving federal funding, to administer a state-wide standardized test each year to all students in an effort to determine whether teachers are providing students with the best possible education practices.   Additionally, the act required states to provide "highly qualified" teachers to all students.

Just in time for the new school year, the Obama administration wants to give more flexibility to states who are looking for greater relief under the No Child Left Behind law.

Said Barnes, "So, instead of being able to focus on flexibility that’s necessary in our classrooms, instead of focusing on turning around our lowest-performing schools that are putting out about 7,000 dropouts every single day, instead of being able to focus on innovation and support for teachers and for principals and making sure that they’re effective and that they have the supports that they need, we have labels that don’t accurately reflect what’s happening in our schools".

Can't see the video?  Click here.

Barnes explained that far too many schools except the status quo of operating with low expectations from students and teachers, producing thousands of school dropouts each year and a "punitive system that does not allow for reform".  She called the system "a cookie-cutter" one "that is not allowing our students to move forward".

Said Duncan on NCLB, "We now have a law that impedes that progress, that impedes that reform, that stands in the way of the courage we’re seeing around the country.  The law, No Child Left Behind, as it currently stands, is four years overdue for being rewritten.  It is far too punitive.  It is far too prescriptive.  It led to a dumbing down of standards.  It led to a narrowing of the curriculum.  At a time when we have to get better, faster education than we ever have, we can’t afford to have the law of the land be one that has so many perverse incentives or disincentives to the kind of progress we want to see".

Barnes and Duncan are revamping the current NCLB act to move the nation's education system forward, with or without the support of Congress.

Explains Barnes: "For four years, as you know, Congress has struggled to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and to fix No Child Left Behind. Just since we came into office in the past two years, the President has frequently and consistently called for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. In the State of the Union, just this past January, he asked Congress to send him a bill. In March of this year, he asked Congress to send him a bill to his desk before the new school year began. And in June, Secretary Duncan penned an op-ed asking Congress to act and saying that if Congress couldn’t move forward, we would have to find better ways to provide states the flexibility that they need".

On why Congress hasn't yet acted, Duncan said it wasn't his job "to psychoanalyze Congress; it’s my job to move forward the children".

"We would have loved to see Congress act", said Duncan.  "No question that it should have happened.  We hope it happens at some point down the road, but it hasn’t and we can’t afford to wait".

just a knotch, or just a notch.

On revamping the old initiative Barnes said that the standards for schools and teachers will be high and encourages school systems in every state to participate.

"Be sure that, when we are doing this, we are asking that every state apply.  Every state can apply; every state can, in fact, receive this kind of flexibility.  But the standards will be high.  The bar will be high.  States are going to have to embrace the kind of reform that we believe is necessary to move our education system forward". 

The end result hoped for? Making sure that every child is ready for college and career, and to be able to compete in a global economy.

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