Duncan Indicates Plan to Re-write, Reauthorize No Child Left Behind

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to ask for a repeal and replacement of the current federal education law, No Child Left Behind, creating what could be the most significant revamp of federal education law in the last 14 years.

Duncan is expected to explain his principles behind his request in a speech this week.  However, it is not expected that he will back down on his insistence that the rewrite include the federal mandate that all students be required to be tested in math and reading every year between the third and eighth grade, reports Caitlin Emma for Politico.

The move would stir legislation that has been slowed down for 8 years in Washington.  The bipartisan law that had been signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2002 has been in need of reauthorization since 2007.

Republicans have discussed the idea of cutting back the amount of federal tests required, and teachers unions and parent groups have expressed their desires for the same.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration, while sympathetic to the idea of overtesting, remains consistent in its view that annual standardized exams need to be conducted in order to assess student progress and hold teachers accountable.

In addition, a coalition of civil rights groups released a statement arguing that the law’s testing requirement has in fact unearthed massive achievement gaps, forcing schools across the country to put more focus on its poor and minority students, including students with disabilities, reports Emma Brown for The Washington Post.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said that he will make the revamp of the law one of his top priorities and will schedule a hearing for later this month, the same day as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address.

The House intends on moving quickly on the law too.  Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has said that he would like to have a bill on the House floor “before the end of March.”

Duncan has previously said that the law must be replaced, that it has “significant flaws,” that it’s “fundamentally broken” and that it has served as a “barrier to reform.” In August 2013, he said the law “is outmoded and constrains state and district efforts for innovation and reform.”

States began receiving waivers for the law from the Obama administration in September 2011.  Unless a state has a waiver from NCLB requirements, they must ensure that all their students are proficient in reading and math at their grade level.  If that requirement is not met, the state has less flexibility in its spending federal money received.  The law requires states to pay for tutoring services and transportation to another school for those families whose child attends a failing school.