White House Gives States Less “No Child Left Behind”

August 8th, 2011 by Leave a Comment

No Child Left Behind has moved one step closer toward No Longer Totally Relevant.

President Barack Obama ‘s administration used the White House briefing room on Monday afternoon to announce that states may apply for waivers to avoid 2014 testing mandates in NCLB.  State school superintendent John Barge said Georgia will apply for the waiver.

No Child Left Behind was the education initiative of President George W. Bush.  It was modeled on a program enacted during his term as Texas governor.  It requires that 100 percent of public school students will be proficient in math and reading by 2014.   The goal is considered unrealistic and NCLB is blamed for creating a “Teach the Test” mania as schools struggled to make AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress.

“No Child Left Behind, in those terms, we’re not going to see that again,” Barge said during an interview with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.   “Certainly it’s not the death knell for accountability, but does it put the actual terms AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and No Child Left Behind in question, possibly.  We will still have accountability.  It will just look different.”

Addressing the White House press corps, Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes described NCLB as “a punitive system that does not allow for reform.”  Barnes said the administration moved forward with its own NCLB changes because Congress has not rewritten NCLB.

“No Child Left Behind is four years overdue for being rewritten,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  “It is far too punitive.  It is far too prescriptive.  It led to dummying down standards and narrowing curriculum … 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 that we want to see.”

Barnes and Duncan said states will become eligible to receive NCLB testing waivers if they embrace reforms that the administration believes are necessary to move education forward.   States that do not agree must continue to abide by the current No Child Left Behind legislation.

Whereas NCLB was a top down federal mandate on states, Barge said the national Council of Chief State School Officers has been working on a replacement for NCLB’s single-minded reliance on standardized testing as the principal measuring stick for education success.

“We all know that a student can pass a test but that student may be anything but prepared to be successful,” Barge said.  The model being proposed to Washington by the state education chief executives will rely on some two dozen or more indicators, Barge said, including SAT and ACT scores, college credits earned during high school and other measurements.

NCLB is sometimes identified as the reason for a proliferation of test cheating scandals.

The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal made national news when 178 educators were identified as participants in falsifying tests to improve school performance.  Atlanta is not alone.  Duncan has said federal officials will look into other possible cases nationwide. On Monday, he singled out Tennessee for taking the right approach to measuring achievement.

“The state of Tennessee like many states had a low bar under No Child Left Behind,” Duncan said.  “They were in fact lying to children, lying to parents.  They were saying that 91 percent of students were proficient.  They did the courageous thing.  They raised the bar significantly.

“Tennessee went from 91 percent of children proficient in math to 34 percent.  That was a very tough lesson but for the first time, they are telling the truth.  The current law provides lots of penalties for that kind of courage,” Duncan said.  “We want to move those (penalties) and reward states that are telling the truth … Everywhere I go, teachers, parents, principals, school board members, state superintendents are asking for flexibility to do the right thing.”

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