How to Reform No Child Left Behind

Obama moves forward with education changes

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In January, the White House promised to overhaul Bush's education law, No Child Left Behind, and implement his own education reforms. Now President Obama is releasing his proposals to Congress. There are a lot of great ideas for fixing education out there. Are Obama's any good? And how will he pass them?

  • What Obama Education Looks Like  The New York Times' Sam Dillon reports, "The administration would replace the law’s pass-fail school grading system with one that would measure individual students’ academic growth and judge schools based not on test scores alone but also on indicators like pupil attendance, graduation rates and learning climate. And while the proposal calls for more vigorous interventions in failing schools, it would also reward top performers and lessen federal interference in tens of thousands of reasonably well-run schools in the middle." It will also soften the rigid reading and math testing requirements.
  • Has Education Reform Gone Too Far?  The New Republic's Diane Ravitch frets "that the current movement to fix schools will not improve American education. In fact, it may very well harm it." She says Obama's reforms, like Bush's law, focus too much on testing, which skews the incentives of schools from educating students to seeking federal money. "Accountability pressures have also led to widespread gaming of the system. Every so often, a cheating scandal is uncovered, but such scandals are minor compared to the ways in which states have manipulated the scoring of tests to produce inflated results."
  • Lower Standards Make Worse Education  The Boston Globe disdains Obama's federal standards as a step down from Massachusetts standards. "The problem is what the administration has proposed is not near the quality of what the Commonwealth already has. [...] Ripple effects of the common core standards would be felt throughout public education in Massachusetts. New standards require new assessments to test mastery of them, and that would spell the end of [the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System]."
  • Set National Standards  The Washington Post urges legislators to override the system of allowing states to set their own standards, touting a well-received proposal for federal education standards, which they say will make students more competitive in the job market. "Instead of the current mishmash of each state setting its own benchmarks for student learning, the common core seeks to describe what every child should know in English/language arts and mathematics from kindergarten to high school graduation."
  • Don't Subsidize Private Tuition  E.D. Kain says it skews the market. "Who says that all these loans and grants have actually benefited poor students?  Many private institutions already had (and still have) their own scholarship programs for low-income students.  There was no need for government’s to subsidize their tuition further," he writes. "All that extra federal cash simply allowed public universities to keep raising their tuition higher and higher and higher over the years. That’s the thing about subsidies. The more you subsidize something, the more expensive it becomes."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.