This past week the Obama administration provided waivers to two more states to opt out of the federal education policy No Child Left Behind. Now 26 states have been waived from a major provision in the NCLB law, which mandated that all students must be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014.
Rather than having schools be labeled as “failing” under NCLB and risk having these schools' funding being cut by the federal government, the Obama administration has instead sought to to override the law. The actions signal a new approach by the Department of Education and the Obama administration that could eventually lead to a more drastic policy change when it comes to education, something that is sincerely needed.
By granting waivers to states who promise to continue to improve each year, and by removing the focus from schools and instead emphasizing teacher effectiveness in the classroom, students will finally be able to achieve higher education standards, especially in math and science.
Education has always been a field too complex to have it depend on one test, and it seems the Obama administration has decided that schools must be judged on many factors, not just the basic method of standardized testing.
This is a move that even critics of the president have to admit is needed. The American discourse on education for the last decade has focused on whether standardized testing was a sufficient mode of measuring if teachers were doing the job that they were supposed to be doing. The new approach will not just measure teacher effectiveness; it will also look at whether schools are challenging their students to go for AP classes and other college preparatory methods.
The biggest measure for schools will be if the school is actually preparing its students for college and career paths. This seems to be a better approach to a program that has been unpopular for years now. But Congress could not come to an agreement on what is the federal government’s role in public education is, thus no action has been taken to fix NCLB.
It is clear that the Obama administration realizes that waiting on Congress to do something is not good enough, and he has taken measures independent of Congress to get something done.
The new approach also looks at those schools in the lower tier of a district and allocates money specifically to them in order to bring them up to par. Critics are saying that by focusing on the bottom 5% it will let many schools off the hook. But this is happening anyways.You have a bunch of moderately good but not great schools, and really bad ones, thus it is clear that something else needs to be done. By taking money from schools because they can’t follow the measures NCLB put in place was a flaw in the law from the moment it was signed. It hurts those poor districts that need more resources and helps those districts were plenty.
Maybe by reordering the money and helping those schools that really need it we can actually save public education in America. This different approach may be what is ahead for education on a federal level if President Obama is reelected come November, after that what’ s next for public education, only time will tell.