After acknowledging that the No Child Left Behind Act is broken and needs fixing, President Barack Obama authorized states to simply opt out from the strict mandates imposed by the federal law.
“Accountability is the right goal,” President Obama said at a Friday White House news conference. “But experience has taught us that in its implementation, No Child Left Behind, is hurting instead of helping.”
He added that it was time for the U.S. to swallow its pride, admit the law was a mistake and move forward with new ways to better educate children and improve public schools.
“It is an undeniable fact that countries who out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow. But today, our students are sliding against their peers around the globe. Our kids trail too many other countries in math, in science, in reading. And that’s true, by the way, not just in inner-city schools, not just among poor kids; even among what are considered our better-off suburban schools we’re lagging behind where we need to be,” explained President Obama. “Today, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t finishing high school. We have fallen to 16th in the proportion of young people with a college degree, even though we know that 60 percent of new jobs in the coming decade will require more than a high school diploma.”
States can begin applying for waivers from NCLB as early as November.
Since enactment, Congress increased federal funding of education from $42 billion in 2001 to over $54 billion today.
“This is why, in my State of the Union address this year, I said that Congress should reform the No Child Left Behind law,” the president added.
Under the president’s plan requirements set forth by NCLB, such as every student passing state tests by the 2013 to 2014 school year, states would be allowed to draft their own plans to improve the performance of struggling students in troubled schools, while such strigent requirements would be thrown out.
And schools will not necessarily get failing grades for missing particular goals on state achievement tests, and states will be eligible for more flexibility in how they spend federal money previously marked for special tutoring programs.
The NCLB supports standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state.
The act requires states to provide “highly qualified” teachers to all students. Each state sets its own standards for what counts as “highly qualified.” The act also requires schools to permit military recruiters to obtain students’ contact information and other access to the student, if the school provides that information to universities or employers, unless the students opt out of giving military recruiters access.
The NCLB law has become the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a 1965 law that over the years has become the main federal law on public schools.
Officials with the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district with 675 schools and 409,000 students, declined comment until it reviews the NCLB guidelines.
And Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said it is about time the federal government recognizes a problem it created and said she hopes new and better education laws result from halting NCLB.
According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, more than 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools are on course to be labeled as failing under NCLB.
But despite these alarming numbers, Duncan said he plans to work with Congress to craft a more comprehensive education law that can take the place of NCLB.
“Both President Obama and I remain committed to working with Congress to reauthorize NCLB,” he said. “Washington is now four years late in fixing the fundamentally flawed NCLB law.”