Education secretary outlines No Child Left Behind overhaul

Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 4:17am

U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shared plans during a Nashville visit Wednesday for sweeping changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Law, outlining President Obama’s proposal for a new accountability system for public schools based on measuring “student growth.”

Duncan, the keynote speaker at the annual Exceptional Children’s Convention & Expo held this week at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center, said the new law should be “fair, flexible and focused on the right goals,” with the main objective to make sure all students nationwide graduate high school.

Duncan, who previously served as superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, said the one thing the current No Child Left Behind law does right is provide accountability for students representing all subgroups and demographics.

The system launched by President George W. Bush, he said, fails to measure growth.

“If students start two or three grade levels behind and, through excellent teaching and strong support, progress so much that at the end of the year reach one grade level behind, their teacher and school historically had been labeled failing instead of a success,” Duncan said. “That is wrong, inaccurate and demoralizing.”

With Obama’s new plan, Duncan said students who make large gains in learning would be rewarded.

“Under NCLB, there’s about 50 ways to fail and very few ways to succeed,” Duncan said. “That has to change.”

Still, he said, schools that have chronically low performance and fail to reach achievement gaps would be required to adopt “far-reaching steps” under the new plan.

Addressing hundreds of special education teachers at the Gaylord ballroom, Duncan acknowledged that the six million students across the nation with disabilities have seen progress in terms of improving equality and inclusiveness in the classroom, but said there’s still much work to be done.

Over the years, he said, graduation rates, postsecondary school enrollment rates and employment rates among special ed students have increased, but added they are all still far too low.

“We haven’t fulfilled the promise of education for students with disabilities,” he said.

4 Comments on this post:

By: sickofstupidity on 4/22/10 at 7:40

Maybe we should thin the herd....

By: harpercat on 4/22/10 at 10:33

Achievement gaps… oh please. Schools of means have the cash to teach the kids to take a test. Schools without means don’t have the resources. My kids attend one of the best schools in the state. My kids pass their state proficiency tests at advance levels. My kids are honor roll students. And, oh by the way… my kids can’t read. My kids, like millions of others were left behind a very long time ago. They pass the tests so they count in no one’s statistics. The state, district, school and teachers aren’t required to teach my kids to read because they pass their tests. Standardized tests are flawed at best and fraud at it’s finest. They represent a false sense of achievement or failure for the students. They foster finger pointing and do nothing to help the student, parent, teacher, school, district and state work together for the benefit of our children’s education.

And, yes I read to my kids… and yes they have private tutors… and no it’s not always parental. My kids, like 20% of the population have dyslexia. It’s not new. It’s not ground-breaking. It’s a neurological condition that requires children learn to read in a different manner. And… no these children aren’t dumb. Mine have higher IQs than the vast majority. They’re not taking up space. They want to learn. Teaching a dyslexic child to read to grade level is appropriate and possible.

There are programs to teach these children to read. The districts have them. Given with certified instruction for the appropriate amount of time, a dyslexic child learns to read. However, the schools and teachers do not have the time. These programs can't work in the amount of time it takes for schools to pass standards... so children are taught the test instead. The numbers look good, teachers who are not allowed to teach can keep their jobs... and children can't read.

Our great state has learned to circumvent the system better than most and the districts have learned at the feet of the masters. As a parent standing alone, I can’t change a district department head’s mindset that… my kid’s an honor roll student, taking honors and AP classes… passing TCAPs at advanced levels… “why does it matter if my child can read… I’ll just need to take care of that at home.” When a parent becomes involved and asks questions they’re labeled the “problem” parent and the district retaliates against the child. And, yet they wonder why they loose good students to home schooling, private schools or magnate schools.

Politicians complain, explain and place blame to get elected but they don’t really change anything. Maybe we should request standardized tests for politicians to measure the effectiveness of their actions and legislation. Legislating without responsibility or accountability isn’t working.

By: myopinion2 on 4/22/10 at 11:27

Well I read the TCAP to 8th grade ELL students today. One fell asleep and wouldn’t awaken. Three raced ahead and finished in 20 minutes and 2 filled in designs on the answer sheet. Two wouldn’t face their test booklets and kept making faces at each other. Just another day when my profession is dependent on the whims of hormonal 13 and 14 year-olds.

By: harpercat on 4/22/10 at 12:18

To myopinion2 –

I’m sorry that as a teacher you experience this because it sets a belief for you of all students. I in 5 of your kids have dyslexia. They don’t have a cognitive impairment. They’re potentially really smart kids. They can learn to read. You hold in your hands the ability to change their lives forever. You can open up the world of the written word to them. I know that you’re required to attempt to teach kids to read with cognitive impairments and that it’s challenging. But there are kids that truly want to learn and you can reach them.

I ask my son once who is now a freshman why he didn’t really want to go to the resource room for reading intervention in middle school. His answer to me was honest and sad… He said, Mom… the kids are really bad. I can’t learn anything because they’re always acting up. I ask him why they were naughty did they have MR or behavior issues and he said… No… they’ve just been made to believe that they’re stupid for so long that they don’t think they can learn anything so they do other stuff.

I think we as parents, teachers, administrators, schools, districts, legislators and regulators have forgotten that children learn what the live. If we treat children as if they are stupid long enough because they learn differently they will act accordingly.

It takes a village. We’re all a village. Our actions and attitudes matter.