Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

January 28, 2011

Duncan calls for rewriting No Child Left Behind

Derek Spellman
CNHI News Service

— U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called for a move away from a "one size fits all" standard for education as federal lawmakers start to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act.

Duncan told rural education reporters during a conference call Wednesday that the 2002 law is "very loose on goals but very tight, very prescriptive on how you get there."

He touted proposed reforms that would afford school districts more flexibility when it comes to devising corrective strategies if they fall

short of performance goals. Renewal of the nation's chief education law is one of the tasks before the new Congress.

The administration last year released a blueprint for revising the law. One

provision of that plan would grant school districts more latitude in how they spend federal dollars, so long as the effort was aimed at "improving student outcomes."

Duncan also called for bureaucratic reforms that include consolidating 38 education programs into 11 to lessen complexity, and for a "narrower, more targeted role for the federal government" in education.

The current system rests on standardized test scores -- and mandates that they improve to a certain level every year -- in determining whether a school has met Adequate Yearly Progress. Duncan proposed standards that would look more at whether students were showing growth, as opposed to relying on labels of failure.

Duncan, and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., were hosts for a separate conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning. Those senators joined Duncan in

calling for rewriting No Child Left Behind.

Duncan drew a distinction between revisions to No Child Left Behind and education spending. The conversation about fixing No Child Left Behind is "divorced" from the conversation about the budget and "doesn't cost a dime,"

he said.

Derek Spellman writes for The Joplin (Mo.) Globe.