President Barack Obama has dropped a water balloon onto No Child Left Behind.
“In my State of the Union address this year I said Congress should reform No Child Left Behind law based on principles that have guided Race to the Top,” Obama said Friday morning at the White House. The President stamped his approval onto new education performance guidelines that the administration says were developed by governors and educators nationwide.
“I want to say, the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable,” Obama said during a carefully crafted appearance that allowed for no questions. “President (George W.) Bush deserves credit for that. Higher standards are the right goal. Accountability is the right goal. Closing the achievement gap is the right goal. We’ve got to stay focused on those goals.”
But he continued, “Experience has taught us that in its implementation No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping.” Obama said, “I have urged Congress for a while now; let’s get a bipartisan effort, let’s fix this. Congress hasn’t been able to do it. So, I will. Starting today we’ll be giving states more flexibility to meet high standards.”
The White House released a two-page single spaced description of new guidelines that was developed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan with input from school system leaders nationwide. One feature is common core standards that 44 states including Georgia will use next year.
Another feature would grant waivers from the NCLB mandate that 100% of students nationwide achieve reading/language arts and mathematics proficiency by 2014. Duncan has said 82% of schools nationally could fail to achieve NCLB goals next year, which means they would be labeled “failure schools” regardless of any other academic achievements.
Many educators who include Georgia state Schools Supt. John Barge agree the 2014 goals are unattainable. This week Barge and Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson delivered the state’s NCLB waiver request to Duncan during a meeting in Washington D.C. Isakson and Barge also delivered the state’s proposal that would replace dreaded Annual Yearly Progress reports with a new model to measure performance over multiple years and also using other data.
No Child Left Behind could still be rewritten by Congress but the administration is placing its new bet on an enhanced Race to the Top style model. “Show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money,” President Obama said Friday. “We want to provide you more resources but there’s also got to be a commitment on your part to make the changes that are necessary so we can see actual results.”
The President was introduced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam who said, “As a Republican I might not always agree with this administration on some policy issues or maybe even the role of federal government, but when there are some things that we can work together on then we should. This is one of the issues that we can work together on.”
During opening remarks Obama noted that Duncan who lurked tall behind him is “probably the finest basketball player ever in the Capitol.” We will allow just a little wiggle room here for his long-time Chicago pal, although the President clearly overlooked former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley whose 1983 election to the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame capped a stunning career.
The lanky Bradley was NCAA Player of the Year at Princeton and a 1964 Olympian before he won two NBA championship rings during ten years with the New York Knicks. Bradley earned the NBA nickname “Dollar Bill” for his uncanny ability to hit big shots under pressure. The President can only hope Race to the Top is as successful as Bill Bradley playing basketball.