Obama administration initiates reform of No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind

The Obama administration this week announced a new process under which states will be able to seek relief from key provisions of No Child Left Behind.

The process, according to the Department of Education, will provide districts and schools with the flexibility to improve student achievement by raising standards while Congress continues to work toward reauthorization.

In a statement, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said No Child Left Behind "is four years overdue for being rewritten. It is far too punitive. It is far too prescriptive. It led to a dumbing down of standards. It led to a narrowing of the curriculum. … Everywhere I go, teachers, parents, principals, school board members, state superintendents are asking for the flexibility to do the right thing."

Following the initial announcement, Duncan said, the next step will be to spend a few weeks finalizing the process, then come back with a final waiver package--and work very closely with states moving forward. "We'll have a peer-review process; this will be very open, be very transparent," he said.

Still, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, said in a statement that the new plan is "not a pass on accountability. There will be a high bar for states seeking flexibility within the law. We'll encourage all states to apply and each one should have a chance to succeed. But those that don't will have to comply with No Child Left Behind's requirements, until Congress enacts a law that will deliver change to all 50 states."

"On the heels of the announcement, Minnesota and South Carolina officials said they planned to ask for waivers," writes Education Week's Alyson Klein. "(Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan have already submitted plans.) Other state officials just gave a thumbs up to the general idea of waivers, including Tony Evers, the superintendent in Wisconsin, and Patricia Wright, Virginia's superintendent of public instruction."