March 15th, 2010
07:51 AM ET
12 years ago

Obama to push 'No Child Left Behind' overhaul

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption ="Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN last week that educators have ‘lowered the bar’ to meet No Child Left Behind standards."]Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration plans to send a wide-ranging overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law to Congress on Monday, arguing that the current legislation has pushed schools to lower their standards to meet federal requirements.

The 8-year-old law was one of the signature policies of the Bush administration. It set up a regimen of state reading and math tests for students in third through eighth grades, intended to identify failing schools. But critics have said the Bush administration never properly funded the effort and that states needed more flexibility in meeting those goals.

During his weekly radio address Saturday, President Barack Obama said his administration's proposed overhaul will "set a high bar - but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it."

"Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down," he said.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the law's goal was "the right one," but the legislation "has significant flaws that need to be addressed." And Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNN last week that educators have "lowered the bar" to meet No Child Left Behind standards.

"We've had low expectations - not because it's the right thing educationally, not because it's the right thing for our economy. We did it because of political pressure," Duncan told CNN's "The Situation Room."

The Department of Education has identified 11 states it said lowered math standards. But several of those states have disputed that conclusion, and it was not clear whether any reduced their standards so that their scores would look better.

The administration's "Blueprint for Reform" shifts the focus from singling out underperforming schools to fostering a "race to the top" to reward successful reforms. The proposed revisions promise that low-performing schools that fail to improve will be asked to show "dramatic change," but states and school districts be held accountable for those shortcomings as well.

It supports the expansion of public charter schools and calls for giving states and school districts additional flexibility in how they spend federal dollars, "as long as they are continuing to focus on what matters most - improving outcomes for students." And it also allows them to use federal grant funds to change the way teachers and principals are paid, "to provide differentiated compensation and career advancement opportunities to educators who are effective in increasing student academic achievement," among other considerations.

But the newly published "blueprint" immediately came under fire from the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, which said it was "disappointed" by Obama's proposals.

"We were expecting more funding stability to enable states to meet higher expectations," the union's president, Dennis Van Roekel, said in a statement issued over the weekend. "Instead, the 'blueprint' requires states to compete for critical resources, setting up another winners-and-losers scenario. We were expecting school turnaround efforts to be research-based and fully collaborative. Instead, we see too much top-down scapegoating of teachers and not enough collaboration."

The Obama administration's $50 billion proposed education budget adds $3 billion in funding to help schools meet these revised goals, with the possibility of an additional $1 billion if the overhaul plan passes Congress.

Filed under: Arne Duncan • Education • President Obama
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    We need to help teachers get their students to learn everything. The problem is that there are so many distractions. Parents need to be there to help with the homework and ask questions about the day. Without parents (or someother trustworthy adult) doing that, it makes it harder for the student to really keep up with things.

    Teachers also need to have limited class sizes and a chance to talk to each student. This would help them see what the student need to learn and succeed. We also need to help motivate each student to learn; taking away somethings that distract like the cell phone, MP3 player to name a few. Unless teachers can find a way to make those work to help the students to learn, then should not be in the class room.

    March 15, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  2. Thank you Massachusetts

    What will improve the education system is vouchers to be used by parents to send their children to the schools that are already producing quality education. Nothing like competition but that is exactly what the liberals DON'T want. After all, if our kids attend private schools how can they be spoon fed the liberal garbage they now consume which make them ripe for slaughter? They can dumb down the masses through government education; private education is a threat to their grip on power.

    March 15, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  3. dennisintn

    over the last few years, obama has voted for billions of dollars to be spent by the chicago school system. they're still at the bottom in every measured activity. since obama doesn't know how to improve education, and he certainly doesn't have anyone else in his administration that would know anything any further than forming choirs to sing about serving pres. zero, and other school clubs offering to follow prs. o off the precipice on command, and singing omm, omm, omm all the way down.
    so now he's going to spend a few trillion more dollars to "fix" this terrible emergency before schools collapse, children running away from frustration, and teachers taking up garbage hauling. yep, just one more disaster that requires trillions to remedy, and no, you can
    't see the bill until after it's signed becauise we just don't have the time.

    March 15, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. Sgt. USMC

    Some more bush mess that the President has got to clean up.

    March 15, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  5. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Here is an idea. Tear up all contracts with the NEA, declare it a criminal organiation and start all over again with competition. That would be like enacting tort reform for health care, a common sense idea that would absolutely destroy the Democratic parties main source of funding for their socialist agenda.

    March 15, 2010 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  6. Terry From West Texas

    Americans show remarkably little interest in their children's education. A parent who would buy his kid an expensive cell phone or $150 brand name sneakers balks at voting for school bonds or a $5 per month increase in property taxes for better schools.

    As is typical of any government activity, our schools have become an ATM machine for contractors and suppliers. Many people don't care about the quality of eduction but they care desperately about who gets the contract to provide janitorial supplies, will it be a no-bid contract, and is there the possibility of an audit.

    And the hayseeds want to make sure that the next generation of Americans is just as stupid as the previous one, so they oppose the teaching of evolution, real history, current events, political science, etc.

    But, why worry? Our kids don't need a fancy education to flip burgers or unload trucks full of Chinese products, do they?

    March 15, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    I am sure that republicans will oppose this because, like Boehner, they are not very bright even though they all had an expensive private education.

    March 15, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  8. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    NCLB, and the entire Department of Education, are unconstitutional and should be abolished.

    The Constitution gives the Feds not the slightest power over education, and specifically says that any power not specifically given to the Federal government by the Constitution is reserved to the states or to American citizens.

    March 15, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. CHRIS D.

    I love a President with reform on his mind.......God bless the POTUS...

    March 15, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. Rush is to far left

    Start holding parents responsible for their child's study habits and behavior in class. That would be a good place to start. I turned down teaching jobs because of these issues. If a child earns an F, he gets an F.

    March 15, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    I have had occasion to visit elementary schools in the major city where I live, and I assure you that the majority of kids in those schools, are not being raised in families that care very much about education.

    With no incentive from parents, the teachers don't have a chance.

    March 15, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  12. Gary

    We need more hour per day and days per year of school time for our students. We need to take children out of the homes of drug addicts, alcoholics or abusive parents. We need more tutoring and mentoring available to children. Smaller class size too. More charter schools, private schools and school vouchers that allow you to take you kid out of a failing school.

    We also need objective testing in order to successfully complete a grade. We focus too much of our grade system based on the student's age rather than their competency. We don't do a child any favor by passing them to the next grade before they have mastered at least the basics of their current grade.

    Education reform is MUCH MUCH MUCH more important to our nation's success than healthcare reform. Get off health care and fix educaiton!!!

    Oh yeah we probably need to challenge the teacher's union more. Sometimes that union protects bad teachers and thwarts good education reform.

    March 15, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. Joseph

    "The administration's "Blueprint for Reform" shifts the focus from singling out underperforming schools to fostering a "race to the top" to reward successful reforms. The proposed revisions promise that low-performing schools that fail to improve will be asked to show "dramatic change," but states and school districts be held accountable for those shortcomings as well". Are not these the same policies or goals as Bush's NCLB? COPY CAT = Obama & Duncan. All we need are nationalized education and achivement standards applied across the board.

    March 15, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |