Obama’s Education Secretary Wants to 'Fix' No Child Left Behind Standards

March 12, 2009 - 11:01 PM
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who defended the Chicago schools' failure to meet annual progress standards when he headed the school district, promised that changes are coming to No Child Left Behind.

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. (AP photo)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the Obama administration plans to “tinker” with No Child Left Behind -- the school accountability law and education program passed by Congress at the prompting of the Bush administration.
 
A top item for “reconsideration” is the law’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates.
 
“We’re obviously looking at everything under No Child Left Behind,” Duncan told CNSNews.com on Thursday. “We’re going through the re-authorizations and that’s one of the many areas (progress standards) we’re going to be looking at,” Duncan said.
 
Under No Child Left Behind, public schools must demonstrate Adequate Yearly Progress in students' math and reading scores, with a target of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 at all public schools.
 
The law allows the respective states to decide their own standards – and all school districts within a state fall within the state guidelines.
 
Individual school districts that receive federal funding are required to test 95 percent of their students on math and reading, and a certain percentage of them must pass.
 
Ironically, the Chicago Public School district, which Duncan headed from 2001 to 2008, was not able to meet Illinois’ Adequate Yearly Progress standards in math and reading from 2004 to 2008, according to Illinois State Board of Education progress reports.
 
Duncan defended Chicago’s failure to meet the standards, telling CNSNews.com: “There are lots of places that haven’t, and everyone needs to continue to get better.”
 
The nation’s schools chief appeared before the House Budget Committee Thursday to discuss the education department’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget. 
 
In his testimony, Duncan criticized allowing states to set individual standards for Adequate Yearly Progress, suggesting that “common high standards” may work better. 

“Low expectations are the one sure way to guarantee failure, high expectations are absolutely a prerequisite for success,” Duncan told the committee. “That’s why we must raise standards -- 50 states with 50 different standards is not good enough.”
 
On Jan. 13, Duncan, then-nominee for the secretary of education position, told the Senate Education Committee that Average Yearly Progress standards fall short because they weigh success on an individual basis. 

“To label a school itself as a failure – an entire school—because one child in one subgroup didn’t hit the mark or didn’t hit the bar -- to me, there’s a lack of a sort of pragmatic logic behind that,’ Duncan told the committee at the time.
 
When asked how he would change the standards, Duncan told CNSNews.com that he planned to “take some time and really get out and travel and listen to people around the country and come back and build up upon the strengths of what worked and really fix what didn’t.” 

He added: “We need to stop the race to the bottom and create a race to the top. Many states are below other countries.”