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Monday, January 08, 2007

Dems Want To Fix No Child Left Behind

Now in charge on Capitol Hill, Democrats are looking to alter No Child Left Behind, the U.S. education reform law enacted early in President Bush's first term.

"Five years ago, with the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act, Democrats and Republicans joined President Bush in ushering in a dramatic reform of our nation's schools. We were hopeful that the increased accountability and performance standards, coupled with a significant increase in the federal investment in education would raise student achievement levels. It is clear, five years later, that changes need to be made," says Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrat now Senate majority leader. "No Child Left Behind has been vastly under funded -- by nearly $55 billion since it was first enacted -- accountability measures have proven far too punitive, and states have been given little flexibility in implementing the law's requirements."

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) -- the main federal law affecting education from kindergarten through high school. NCLB is built on four principles: accountability for results, more choices for parents, greater local control and flexibility, and an emphasis on doing what works based on scientific research.

Reid says he has met with all of Nevada's school superintendents, heard from teachers, and talked with parents and students across the state state about No Child Left Behind.

"They all believe in higher standards, increased accountability, and raising student achievement," he says. "But, across the board, they expressed concerns with the law. One of their primary concerns is how they'll cover the additional costs of increased testing without adequate support from the federal government. Many principals also feel that the current law does not give credit to schools that have made strides in student performance. And teachers, who share the goal of raising student achievement, are concerned that the focus on reading and math takes time away from other important subjects."

No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization in Congress this year.

"As Congress considers the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind this year, we have an opportunity to make the law more responsive to the needs of students, teachers, and administrators," Reid says. "As a start, we need to fully fund the law. Then, we need to take a hard look to see what works, what needs fine tuning, and what needs to be fixed."

For his part, President Bush seemed willing to make some changes to bill.

"I am proud of this piece of legislation. I think it's made an enormous difference, particularly in the lives of some of our poorer students. This country needs to get it right when it comes to public education, and the bill that I was honored to sign
is an important first step toward making sure every child gets a good education in America," he says.

Bush met in the Oval Office with Sen. Edward Kennedy and other Democratic and Republican lawmakers on reauthorization.

"And in our discussions today, we've all agreed to work together to address some of the major concerns that some people have on this piece of legislation, without weakening the essence of the bill, and get a piece of legislation done. We showed in the past that we can work together to get positive results, and I'm confident we can do so again," Bush says.

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