In March 2010, the Obama Administration, under the direction of the Secretary of Education, outlined a strategic blueprint for the re-authorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, sets the attitude, direction, and priorities in education for the entire nation in the coming years. Criticized by some, and embraced by others, the NCLB law has had a major impact in the realm of education and what takes place in America’s classrooms. Its pending re-authorization as a law has the potential to dramatically change the direction of schools and the teaching profession.
Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has stated that the Department of Education’s goals for the ESEA are focused on “making sure all students graduate ready to succeed in college and the workplace.” In order to accomplish this, the re-authorization of NCLB should be focused on three core areas: “raising standards, rewarding excellence and growth, and increasing local control and flexibility while maintaining the focus on equity and closing achievement gaps.” These goals represent the delicate balance that the Federal Government tries to maintain in public education. There is an attempt to balance federal guidance and local control while keeping education kid-focused. This line, while precarious, is essential in helping students and teachers succeed in both life and the classroom. The reauthorized ESEA identifies and clearly outlines the responsibilities and expectations of schools and the guidance that will be offered by the Department of Education in order to strike this delicate balance.
The Six Priorities of the Department of Education
When developing a blueprint for academic success in the future, the plan for the No Child Left Behind law outlines six key objectives that local schools and the federal department of education will focus on. According to NCLB, teacher preparation colleges and the local school systems should be striving to equip and create:
College- and Career-Ready Students
Great Teachers and Great Leaders
Meeting the Needs of English Learners and Other Diverse Learners
A Complete Education
Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students
Fostering Innovation and Excellence
These objectives are sound and good, but achieving them is difficult. In order to help schools and teachers create the types of educators and learners that can succeed, Arne Duncan also identified ten areas that demand special attention when the new law is re-authorized later this year. These areas have been identified specifically as needing to stay, needing change, or needing to be omitted.
The 10 Important Details in the Blueprint for the New No Child Left Behind Law
1. High-stakes tests in math and reading will continue. States can supplement these content areas with others if they so choose.
2. Currently, the No Child Left Behind law stipulates that 100% of student must be proficient in math and reading by 2014. This concept will be replace with the concept of 100% of students being ready for college and career by year 2020.
3. Currently schools and students must make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). According to Duncan’s proposal, AYP will be replace with “career and college readiness standards.” Schools will be measure against the readiness standards rather than AYP.
4. School accreditation and school success will include measurements of school climate, attendance, and graduation rates.
5. There is a current focus on closing achievement gaps within different populations of students. This will continue to be a focus, especially in schools where academic achievement is high, but there is still a large achievement gap.
6. Many formulaic funding programs such as special education and title funds will be replaced with competitive grants.
7. Teacher quality will be closely monitored to ensure that effective students are available to all schools and in all districts.
8. Parents will no longer qualify for tutoring or school transfers if their school is rated as “Highly Effective.” Students will have to stay in their local school or move to private or charter institutions at their own cost.
9. Schools and school districts must have a student achievement monitoring system that tracks student achievement over time and can follow a student from school to school.
10. Teacher evaluations, student test scores, and teacher observation will be used to help determine a school’s effectiveness.