NCLB: ‘Getting in the Way of Where We Need to Go’

Secretary Duncan emphasized once again that we need to fix NCLB in real time, not Washington time.

The current law doesn’t reward schools that are making significant progress and prescribes interventions based on absolute test scores, the Secretary said last Friday at a lunchtime question and answer session during the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network annual conference.

Measuring growth and gains needs to be the focus of any accountability system, he said in response to a question from YEO Network member and Georgia State Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan.

The Secretary explained that No Child Left Behind is an impediment which results in too many schools being labeled as failures, “and is getting in the way of where we need to go.”

In March of 2010, President Obama released the administration’s proposal to fix NCLB, and earlier this year he called on Congress to fix NCLB before the next school year begins. Click here to read A Blueprint for Reform.


  1. There are a couple of things that should be considered as we move forward in our thinking about NCLB…..

    1. Whether it is appropriate to label our schools based on one form of standardized assessements? The pros to a common form of standardized assessment would mean that all students and teachers are held accountable for the similar learning in the classroom. Standards are set that are based upon high expectations and accountability. Yet the downside of standardized tests would mean that learning beyond the test may or may not occur. Student learning should not be assessed simply by paper and pen examinations. Particulary, when in a changing society that requires more accountability and collaboration, learning is demonstrated through project based learning.

    2. Schools that perform well receive money… therefore, the low performing schools would continue to be low performing because of the limited resources availalbe to help turnaround programs within the school…. this needs to be reconsidered.

    Secondly, in thinking about teachers unions, I think this is one step towards approaching educational reform yet it does not completely elimate the issues among us (ie. achievement gaps, unthoughtful spending, etc.)…The major concern with unions are tenured teachers who are not performing up to par in addition to low teacher salaries and limited teacher requirements to perform to the standard core of teaching….

    NCLB needs to be ammended to reflect the current educational situations and how students learn.

  2. In my state, reduced budgets mean that reading writing teachers who have been trained to provide staff development in the area of literacy and to work with students and teachers, lose jobs in difficult economies and especially in the most at risk districts. The positions are most often reduced to half time.

    When I read of the reward schools and the challenge schools, it caused me great pain. The gap exists between the haves and have nots already. How unfortunate and appalling to widen that gap by restricting access to some of the more innovative learning opportunities for schools who are designated as challenging while giving the go ahead to the reward schools. I keep hoping I read it wrong.

    And as an aside, I always wish I could e-mail the Secretary of Education about current practices in education but he seems to be unavailable. No e-mail address.

    • I agree… The message that comes from the NCLB is that a school is a “failing school”…. with the residual messaging and signaling about school status, how can we expect our schools to feel empowered about moving forward and improving student achievement?

  3. To assist Secy Duncan in the incredible task of improving the education of the nation’s children, I would suggest enlisting the myriad legions of grandparents (every child has 4, you know) in a vast mentoring program. Benefiting from Medicare and Social Security, these grandparents are well, searching for useful activity and anxious to insure a better future for all childrren. If we could have managed as complex an organizatio as the Peace Corps, why not institute a Grandcorps?

  4. Fix NCLB……can it be fixed? Or should it be replaced. We study other countries and as Marc Tucker pointed out in his recent report, we know what we are doing is not effective. We test and retest when what we need is more time to teach and teach to a greater understanding. We speak to the need for rigor yet the majority of teaching candidates who have been educated under the direction of NCLB lack that deep understanding of the curriculum themselves. The text books that we teach from lack the deep and rich exploration of the material. We are just going over the surface and exposing our kids to general knowledge instead of giving them the deep, rich knowledge that they need to be true problem solvers and thinkers. We have taken rich literature from most of our courses and replaced it with material geared to the test and then we wonder why the kids lack critical thinking skills. We expect everyone to become college ready when many of our kids would welcome the opportunity to learn a trade. Where are the opportunities for our kids to make a decision for their future. We have limited their choices. Yes, there are a few trade
    schools in each major school system but not enough to train our future work force.
    NCLB has left many kids behind. This is the sad truth.

  5. I’m glad to see that the Department of Education is realizing that NCLB is not the solution to the future of education. Labeling schools as failures or not making adequate yearly progress is hurting our morale as teachers and schools. Everyday I see teachers trying the hardest to help students succeed. We are on our way with Common Core standards and I think this is great idea. America has to have faith in teachers. I’m not asking for a pay raise, that’s not why I went into education, but it would be nice to feel supported along the way. I think the push to look at data and assessment recently has helped teachers focus on whats working and whats not working. We need to focus on growth and progress in schools and offer help to those that need it. If NCLB is to be re-written, it would be wise to ask for ideas and advice from current teachers who are in the field. Only those who are in the schools and classrooms really know what we are up against. I see a lot of great things happening in public education, let’s focus on the positives and look at students as a human being, not a test score.

  6. Failing systems need to be pushed out, it opens opportunity for new growth and possible innovation. Lets see what taking the burden off teachers and students and create a better structure for them to work with.


      • I think that there are several major stakeholders in the process aside from parents… It’s easy to blame parents; however, some students are not of the best upbringing and that is not a childs’ fault. Therefore, we have to think about how can additional resources support our students so the cycle does not repeat opposed to simply focusing on parents. Parents are an integral part of a child’s learning but not the sole factor for learning…

  7. 1. A majority of Americans agrees that NCLB is deeply flawed.
    2. A majority also agrees that assessing our students is important.
    3. NCLB mandated a goal of 100% proficiency for all students in the United States.
    4. Proficiency varies from state to state, from year to year, from subject to subject, so although “100% proficiency ” sounds good, there is no way to know what it means.
    5. One point is clear however. “100% proficiency” equals mediocrity. The original goal of NCLB had nothing to do with excellence. Students who earn a 65% or 70% on a NCLB-approved assessment are usually considered to be proficient in that subject at that grade level.
    6. The cut-off point varies widely, even within a school district. It might be as high as 75% or as low as 63%. Even if all American students were to achieve ‘proficiency’ by 2014, just how should we plan to celebrate?
    7. The goal of NCLB was for all American students to earn something around a 66% in some subjects at some point prior to graduation from High School. We spent billions of dollars, a great deal of agony and very little ecstasy trying to reach this goal. How do you think we should celebrate the fact that 100% proficient is actually 100% mediocre?
    8. The problem is the method for calculating the AYP. We need to measure the improvement of each student, and we need to track that progress from year-to-year.
    9. We need a scale range of about 800, which is what they use on the SAT.
    10. Four 3rd graders might score 250, 300, 350 and 400. The following year, Matthew, 400, has jumped to 510; Mark,300, is now at 380; Luke, 350, earned a 450, or +100, and Juanita, 250 in 3rd grade, earned a 370.
    11. Add the plusses and minuses: Matthew +110, Mark+80, Luke+100 and
    Juanita+120. Even though Juanita had the lowest score, she is the winner because she made the most progress.
    12. This is a very good method for evaluating student performance, and it would give meaningful feedback to parents on the progress their child is making.
    13. Each child has the opportunity to be the most improved. Our current system is enormously unfair to students from other countries who are unfamiliar with the language and customs in the US.
    14. Students who speak English perfectly are still at a disadvantage when they live in a home where another language is spoken all the time. Many states give the NCLB assessments very early in the year. The New England NECAP tests are given during the first week on October.
    15. All assessments should be given as late in the year as possible, during the first 10 days in May for example.
    16. The assessments are an excellent tool for evaluating teacher performance, as long as they are used fairly.

  8. The carrots and sticks approach (RTTP or NCLB).
    That is my favorite term.
    It implies that we are absolute animals, that can not be anything but simply controlled through our baser instincts. Either feed us or hit us, but never, and I mean never, treat us as professionals and give us an even voice in the debate.

    That, my good sir or ma’am, encourages sundry unions and eventually *gasp* solidarity.

    As we all know, that is socialism, which always leads to communism, which then invariably leads to facism. Even if it doesn’t lead to facism, socialism is inherently evil, as it will always lead to corruption. Everyone knows that the best approach to schools is through the lens of the uncontrolled free-market – because it could never be corrupted. Never mind the massive amount of public dollars that are available in education today. Everyone knows that multi-national corporations always have the little guy’s best interests at heart, and have not once been driven to make poor choices by greed. (Sorry, that seemed slightly less paranoid in my mind).

    Either way, as teacher’s unions are socialism in action, and socialism leads to communism and facism, could it be inferred that the dirty unions are just a much larger, institutional version of Hitler or Stalin? Do YOU want Hitler or Stalin teaching your children? I know I don’t.

    Based on this administration’s (more specifically, Arne Duncan’s) stance on teacher’s unions and the members thereof, I am led to believe that the previous statement is true. So, shame on you, teachers, for protecting your rights. There’s money to be made, and you’re standing in the way. For shame.

    As the previous poster stated, I assume that this will not be posted to the website, because of inflamatory remarks. It does seem sort of tin-foil-hat paranoid, but there’s not much to be done about that. With the amount of money changing hands, and the size and scope of the companies that wish to privatize education for a profit, any dissent seems to be paranoid. So, if it gets posted or not, at least one moderator had to read it, and I had a pleasurable time writing it.

  9. We shouldn’t be rewarding schools for anything, or punishing them for that matter.

    We should be looking to the research that tells us poverty is the problem.

    We know that books (RIF got cut, right?) are the most important thing for young kids literacy, yet we as a nation are cutting back on early literacy, libraries and librarians.

    Why do you think rewards and punishments are a good idea? Where is the research base that shows this is how to reform the largest public school system on earth (and one that produces more Nobel Laureates than anywhere else on earth)?

    Please, Arne, you are out of your depth as your friend Jonathan Alter proved recently.

    And I expect this comment not to make it past your moderators. This is a government website and you should not be moderating anything, you should be reading them.

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