Educators Await Obama's Mark on NCLB's 8th Anniversary
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- Subject: Educators Await Obama's Mark on NCLB's 8th Anniversary
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- Date: Sat, 09 Jan 2010 15:11:41 -0500
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EDUCATORS AWAIT OBAMA'S MARK ON NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Washington Post -- January 9, 2010
By Nick Anderson
Eight years after President George W. Bush signed the bill that branded
an era of school reform, the education world is wondering when President
Obama will seek to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law.
Obama officials, who for months have been on a "listening and learning"
tour, are expected to propose a framework for the successor to a law
that is two years overdue for reauthorization. Time is growing short if
Obama aims for action before midterm elections, which could weaken
Democratic majorities in Congress.
As the anniversary of the law's enactment passed quietly Friday, an
occasion Bush marked throughout his presidency as a domestic policy
milestone, the regimen of standardized testing and school accountability
Every year from grades three to eight, and at least once in high school,
students must take reading and math exams. Every year, public schools
are rated on the progress they make toward the law's goal of universal
proficiency by 2014. And every year, states label more schools as
falling short and impose sanctions on them, including shakeups and
"In many ways, [No Child Left Behind] is a compact disc in an iPod
world," Bob Wise, president of the Washington-based Alliance for
Excellent Education, said in a statement. "It's still around, but it is
in desperate need of an upgrade." His group wants more provisions in the
law to prevent high school dropouts.
In September, Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a speech on
reauthorization titled "Why We Can't Wait." He praised the Bush-era law
for shining a light on academic disparities but said it should be
revised to promote a well-rounded curriculum, equal opportunity for
disadvantaged students and academic growth toward high standards. He
disparaged "game-playing tied to bad tests with the wrong goals." Duncan
also has advocated expansion of high-caliber public charter schools and
initiatives to evaluate and pay teachers in part on gains in student
But Duncan and top congressional Democrats have not yet proposed
detailed revisions to the law or laid out a timetable for action.
"We're on a path to doing this in 2010, but the exact timing will be
determined by Congress and the White House," Peter Cunningham, assistant
education secretary for communications and outreach, said Friday.
For several months, the administration has sought to spur school reform
among states through the $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition.
Piecing together a coalition for a new education law could prove more
difficult. No Child Left Behind passed with huge bipartisan majorities
but in recent years has come under attack from the political left and
the right. Liberals are suspicious of standardized testing;
conservatives are leery of federal mandates.
Former education secretary Margaret Spellings said Friday that the Obama
team has "taken some bold stands" but that Democrats must be judged on
whether they seek to alter the law's pillars. She cited the
oft-criticized goal of proficiency for all students by 2014.
"It is a big deal," Spellings said. "It's one of the holy grails, as far
as I'm concerned. If you don't have a real deadline, you've essentially
Education historian Diane Ravitch, a critic of the law who served under
President George H.W. Bush, predicted that Obama will not deviate
sharply from policies he inherited. "They're really not going to
repudiate No Child Left Behind," Ravitch said. "They're just going to
rename it and add the twist of more choice, more accountability."
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