President Barack Obama and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced today the approval of ten states’ plans to make substantial school reforms in return for temporary regulatory relief from some of No Child Left Behind’s mandates. The administration endorsed plans by Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. New Mexico’s application has not yet been approved.
At Thursday’s announcement, attended by state education officials, teachers, civil rights, and business leaders, Obama said NCLB is long overdue for an overhaul and continues to drive the wrong behaviors, from teaching to the test to federally determined, one-size-fits-all interventions.
“After waiting far too long for Congress to reform No Child Left Behind, my administration is giving states the opportunity to set higher, more honest standards in exchange for more flexibility,” said President Obama. “Today, we’re giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them. Because if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said the administration’s moves to provide regulatory relief were encouraging.
“These states have committed to working with teachers, parents, and other community stakeholders to implement changes designed to better support students,” Van Roekel explained. “Our members look forward to being part of a true partnership with school and community leaders to think creatively about how to help all students thrive with this new flexibility.”
Still, Van Roekel cautioned that these waivers were only stopgap meaures, not a permanent solution.
“NEA will continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive bill that works for students and reflects the important federal role of ensuring equity while working with states and local school districts to support the public education system,” said Van Roekel. “Any ESEA reauthorization bill must ensure that all students have access to quality early education, well-rounded instruction, a safe and supportive learning environment, and access to qualified, caring, and committed teachers. As a nation, we must do more to implement a new vision of public education that helps all students succeed.”
A new version of ESEA legislation must include provisions that ensure educators have a seat at the table for all key decisions, including the development and implementation of school improvement plans.
“The face of public education is changing all over the country. We’re seeing great success and long-lasting progress when educators, school administration, parents, and communities come together for the students,” said Van Roekel.