U.S. Secretary Duncan offers flexibility, not compromise on NCLB

When Congress will act to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – and what it will look like is anybody’s guess. However, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is signaling he is willing use his executive authority to free states from one of the law’s cornerstones that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. 

 In March, Duncan predicted that the law would classify 80 percent of the nation’s 100,000 public schools as failing this fall unless it was amended. But so far Congress has not acted to alter NCLB and several attempts to rewrite the comprehensive school accountability law have failed.

The U.S. Department of Education Website now says the Obama Administration plans to provide “regulatory flexibility” around NCLB if Congress does not complete work on a reauthorization bill prior to the August recess, in order to help support reform efforts underway at the state and local level.

Duncan said that regulatory flexibility will not replace comprehensive reform, or release states and districts from accountability. Instead, the goal is to “unleash energy at the local level even as Congress works to rewrite the law, giving states, districts and schools the flexibility they need to raise standards, boost quality, and improve our lowest-performing schools, he said.”

Education Week reported Duncan’s announcement marked a shift in tone, since the education secretary had previously refused even to discuss the option of waiving parts of the current law and instead focused entirely on his push to reauthorize the legislation.

For more information, see http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-plans-nclb-flexibility-package-tied-reform-if-congress-does.