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Obama to offer states freedom from No Child Left Behind law

WASHINGTON ó President Obama on Friday morning unveiled major changes in the way public schools are evaluated, scrapping an essential element of President George W. Bush’s signature education program in favor of letting states come up with their own plans.| src=”http://northiowatoday.com/cutenews/data/upimages/US_NEWS_OBAMA-NOCHILD_5_ABA.jpg”>By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON ó President Obama on Friday morning unveiled major changes in the way public schools are evaluated, scrapping an essential element of President George W. Bush’s signature education program in favor of letting states come up with their own plans.

Bush had good intentions with his “No Child Left Behind” plan of 2002, Obama told a crowd of educators and students, but it ended up inspiring states to lower their standards and schools to “teach to the test.”

“Accountability is the right goal,” Obama said, “but experience has taught us that in its implementation No Child Left Behind is … hurting instead of helping.”

Under his new plan, Obama will basically throw out the requirement that every student pass state tests by the 2013-2014 school year, and let states draft their own plans to improve the performance of struggling students in troubled schools.

Schools will not necessarily get failure grades for missing particular goals on state achievement tests and states will be eligible for more flexibility in how they spend federal money previously marked for special tutoring programs.

Obama hasn’t been able to reach an agreement in Congress on how to amend the elementary and secondary education act that carries the No Child Left Behind provisions, so the changes will come by way of state waivers.
The Department of Education will let states apply to change the way they test students and the way they judge school and district performance. States may begin to apply as early as this November.

The waivers will relieve elected officials all over the country who were expecting a raft of school failure grades next year. Some 80 percent of U.S. schools were projected to earn the “failed” label under the old standards.
But some members of Congress are already reacting negatively to Obama’s move to do this with his executive power rather than through legislation. Some believe that Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are assuming too much power this way.

Obama said Friday morning that he has no other choice. His team has been working with Congress for several months to try and remedy the problems without success.

“Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far,” Obama said, “so I will.”

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©2011 Tribune Co.

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