Obama calls for reform of ‘No Child Left Behind’
May 21st, 2011
12:23 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama calls for reform of ‘No Child Left Behind’

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to call on Congress to reform "No Child Left Behind" – the controversial educational policy implemented by President George W. Bush in 2002.

“We need to promote reform that gets results while encouraging communities to figure out what’s best for their kids. That why it’s so important that Congress replace No Child Left Behind this year – so schools have that flexibility. Reform just can’t wait,” Obama said while touting his own administration’s educational policy, "Race to the Top."

“The idea is simple: if states show that they’re serious about reform, we’ll show them the money. And it’s already making a difference throughout the country,” Obama said of the two-year-old program.

The president cited Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee – the winner of his “Race to the Top Commencement Challenge” – as an example of successful reform.

The historically low-performing high school earned a visit from the president by demonstrating a dramatic improvement in its performance and graduation rate. Obama delivered the commencement address at the Memphis school earlier this week.

“This is a school in the middle of a tough neighborhood in South Memphis. There’s a lot of crime. There’s a lot of poverty,” Obama said. “And just a few years ago, only about half of the students at the school graduated. Just a handful went off to college each year. But folks came together to change all that.”

“Today, four out of five students at the school earn a diploma. 70 percent continue their education, many the first in their families to go to college. So Booker T. Washington High School is no longer a story about what’s gone wrong in education. It’s a story about how we can set it right,” he said.

Obama said the goal now is to promote similar reform across the country.

“We need to reward the reforms that are driven not by Washington, but by principals and teachers and parents. That’s how we’ll make progress in education – not from the top down, but from the bottom up,” Obama said.

In response to Obama’s address, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minnesota, called on Obama to work with Congress to enact real reform.

“My House Education and the Workforce Committee colleagues and I are focused on advancing targeted proposals that reduce federal regulatory burdens in the classroom, encourage flexibility for states and local school districts, and put the needs of students first,” Kline said.

“The nation's education system is in critical need of improvement, but thoughtful, responsible reform will take more than rhetoric. I hope the president will work closely with Congress as we move forward a series of key education bills."

Filed under: Education • President Obama
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. nintex

    How refreshing to see a leader, President Obama, recognize the great importance of education to the future of this country, as opposed to say, the governor and republican leaders in Texas who are slashing education spending to the bone. Some elected officials get the big picture, some don't.

    May 21, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. Bessy

    Yes, this has to be done. A crazy system that never worked. All it does is make robots out of the kids with them taking the same thing over and over until they pass. A waste of both teachers and students time and in the meantime the kids are learning nothing.

    May 21, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. Susan in Arkansas

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!! My two grandchildren are home-schooled because the curriculum in their school district is geared to "teach to the test." This is wrong, wrong, wrong! The teachers are frustrated, the parents are frustrated and the kids are not learning what they need to learn. For heaven's sake, Congress, do something smart this time and promote an educational policy that works!

    May 21, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    Until parents take an active role in their child's education, this country will go no where. I have seen over the last decade the lack of interest of most parents. This is on all economic levels. What I would like to see is every commentator that has an opinion on this subject, spend two weeks in and elementary school. The first week should be in the front office, the second in the classroom. Until that happens, NO ONE should say a bad word about our public school teachers.
    Until you do that....no one has the right to make a comment.

    May 21, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. The Clear Thinking Indpendent Voter

    Our path to JOB CREATION starts about 25 years before those jobs are needed.

    Why? Because jobs are created by innovative products created by well educated scientists, engineers and skilled factor workers. If we had a robust education system then – one that was performing – it would be producing those types of motivated "job creators" today.

    Stated another way, you want to blame someone for today's shortage of JOBS? Blame the whomever was President abou 25 years ago. If you are COMPLAINING about the economy today, then demand some accountability for the actions of that former President. You know the one; his party demanded that we name an a/c carrier - and re-named an airport - after him.

    President Obama is doing the right thing now so that in 2035, the country will again be DOMINATE as an Industrial / Economic Superpower. Get behind him America our future depends on it.

    This is change we can trust in.

    May 21, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. diridi

    nation needs a big reform on education. Hire the guys from India, who are citizens, and have diplomas, instead of hiring all junk....o.k., Need money in education. Do not squeeze teachers for the fault of kid's parents that are not taking initiative to kids education. Teachers are not baby sisters....o.k, learn these things. US school system is way beyond any nation....focus...

    May 21, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans are still stuck in the time zone of Bush years and President Obama is forging ahead. Just more proof Congress isn't doing anything but standing in the way of the people's progress and getting paid, taking vacations and playing golf.

    May 21, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Karen Gonzalez

    Thank God!

    May 21, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. DENNA

    President Obama will get this right too with the help of the Democrats and straight-thinking Republicans. Our children are our future and they need to have some priority in this country.

    May 21, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |

    Let's get it done!!!! it's time for DEMS, and REPUBS to come together on this.

    May 21, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |

    Watch the wingnuts propose vouchers as reform. Tax money going to private schools thru rich parents means reform for the delusional wingnuts

    May 21, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. peace

    kline the prez is moving in the right direction. if you guys would stop letting rush the drug addict run you party. this guy rush sound like he has a six grade education. that"s what wrong with our nation when people rather listen to dumb hicks like rush and sarah palin .

    May 21, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. Republican Robber Baron

    Just about EVERYTHING the Bush Administration implemented has been an absolute disaster for America. Don't reform NCLB
    please just eliminate it altogether. All it did was create mass confusion for school districts to comply with vague mandates and create massive new.beauracracy

    May 21, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. demogal

    I suffered under NCLB for the final 8 years of my teaching career. For my high school English students (and for me) it took all the fun, creativity, and energy out of literature and writing. The daily grind became "teach the test, teach the test, teach the test." I retired long before I would have if it had not been for this mind-numbing mandate.

    May 21, 2011 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Jerry

    As much as I despose Obama, he is correct "No child left behind" does not work--get rid of it.

    May 21, 2011 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Mike

    It's about time this get reformed.

    No child left behind was a DISASTER. All it did was make everyone stay at the same level, no matter how educated someone in the class was, they were stuck with the most unintelligent students. That is NOT how education should be.

    May 21, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Russ from Md

    The biggest reform our schools need is to take the politics out of the classrooms. Liberal or conservative (Although I rarely hear of a conservative teacher) it doesn't matter, let our kids decide for them selves. Quit teaching our kid to hate others based on there political positions. Stop our teachers from molding our kids the eyes of there party beliefs. And above all, fire the ones that continue to preach there political rhetoric. these teachers are no better than the Imams that teach hate in the middle east.

    May 21, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |