President Obama Calls for NCLB Fix, Testing to Stay Central

At an appearance at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, President Obama outlined his vision for reforming the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which he called on Congress to complete before school reconvenes in the fall.

“We need to make sure we’re graduating students who are ready for college and a career,” Obama said.  ”In the 21st Century, it’s not enough to leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead. We need to get every child on a path to academic excellence.”

President Obama during his speech at Kenmore MIddle School in Arlington, VA on March 14.

Kenmore Middle School, which has been cited for its innovative use of technology, is the latest school spotlighted by the administration for demonstrating the impact of reforms at the state and local levels and the importance of shared responsibility in education.

In his speech today, Obama identified three key priorities he wants to guide the legislative process: fair and thorough accountability and assessment, empowerment of teachers and principals to pursue innovative ideas, and a focus on persistently low-performing schools to ensure the most effective teachers serve students most in need.

Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that NCLB’s broken accountability system will lead the overwhelming majority of schools – 82 percent, according to the Department of Education – falling short of NCLB’s goals. Doing away with the current laws one-size-fits-all mandates, Duncan said, is critical to fix the law.

“The law is far too punitive,” Duncan told reporters in a conference call on Sunday. “There are dozens of ways to fail. It’s led to a dumbing down of curriculum.”

But President Obama continues to favor testing as a key measuring stick of student progress, although he assured teachers on Monday that other factors will also be in the mix.

“I’m not talking about more tests,” he said “I’m not talking about teaching to the test.  We don’t need to know whether a student can fill out a bubble.  We do need to know whether they’re making progress. But we need to refine how we’re assessing progress so that we can have accountability without rigidity.”

Obama also voiced his determination to oppose what he called “reckless” spending cuts being pushed by many lawmakers in Congress, drawing a strong line at education funding.

“Let me make it plain:  We cannot cut education,” he said. ” We can’t cut the things that will make America more competitive.”

The National Education Association’s Position on ESEA/NCLB