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Obama To Propose Sweeping Changes to Education Law

obama-duncanFor something that sounds like a good idea, No Child Left Behind has been pretty much universally loathed by educators. I’ve covered schools in both good districts and bad for a long time and pretty much every educator all along the spectrum just really hates that law, which requires schools to show adequate yearly progress based on test scores, among other things.

Now the Obama administration is proposing huge changes to No Child Left Behind.The proposed laws would be based closely on Race To The Top, the competitive program 40 states are pursuing that administers stimulus money to schools. It’s already spurred many states to change education laws, since states that don’t allow test scores to be used in teacher evaluation can’t get the money. It also encourages more charter schools, and requires states to evaluate teachers based on improving test scores and how well they raise student achievement. It’s expected that any new legislation will attach condtions to any federal fund that are similar to Race To The Top.

The propsed legislation would also eliminate the 2014 deadline for all students to show proficiency, instead setting the standard that all students must leave high school “college or career ready.” It would also tie federal money to academic progress at a school, instead of basing it simply on numbers of students. Right now, Title 1 funds (called 21st Century Learning) are apportioned to schools based on how many students they have and how many of those are below the poverty line, and districts then use the money for tutoring programs or a teacher that provides extra help to kids in certain subjects.

According to the New York Times story, No Child Left Behind’s adequate yearly progress standard which gives schools letter grades based on percentages of students that pass state tests would be replaced with a system that divides schools into more categories, recognizing successful schools and doling out large sums to fix failing ones. Educators generally hate AYP, saying it doesn’t do anything to help failing schools change while it stigmatizes them. Schools that don’t meet AYP are required to provide students with free tutoring and allow them to transfer schools and can be forced to make staff changes if they continue to fail.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has met with Congressional leaders of both parties, but it’s unclear when the changes might be introduced.

Photo: New York Times/Stephen Crowley

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