In an editorial in the Washington Post, Education Secretary Arne Duncan explains how he believes that while No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was signed into law ten years ago, has improved American education in some ways, it also still has flaws that need to be fixed.
“No Child Left Behind for the first time exposed achievement gaps and created a conversation about how to close them,” he writes.
“The law has held schools accountable for the performance of all students no matter their race, income level, English-proficiency or disability. Schools can no longer point to average scores while hiding an achievement gap that is morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable.”
But Duncan criticized the “artificial goal of proficiency” that emphasizes test scores as the primary measure of school performance and encourages states to set low standards and narrow the curriculum.
“The one-size-fits-all accountability system has mislabeled schools as failures even if their students are demonstrating real academic growth.”
States that try to create teacher evaluation systems that use multiple measures to identify effective teachers, such as student evaluation, aren’t aided by a law that stifles their ability to create unique improvement plans. Duncan calls it “overly prescriptive”.
And so the Obama Administration is looking to support states that look to build on NCLB’s success and fix its problems by offering flexibility from NCLB in exchange for comprehensive plans to raise standards by creating “fair, flexible and focused accountability systems” and to improve “systems for teacher and principal evaluation and support”.
“This flexibility will not give states a pass on accountability.”
Although Congress has begun the process of reauthorizing NCLB, many states have expressed interest in this flexibility from the law’s teach-to-the-test culture and one-size-fits-all accountability system.
“States and school districts need relief from NCLB right now.”
As Congress looks to create a law that supports a well-rounded education while holding schools, districts and states accountable for results, Duncan has urged that we all need “to work together so that 10 years from now”.
“America’s children will have the sort of federal education law they so richly deserve — one that challenges them to achieve to high standards, and provides them with the highly effective teachers and principals who can prepare them for success in college and the workforce.”