In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said we need to replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s “more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids. “ Part of this call for flexibility is in response to the high number of schools who have received failing grades because of the law. Perhaps, then, Senator Tom Harkin’s suggested new name for the law, “Every Child Counts,” is more appropriate. The question of flexibility leads to the crux of the education debate in this country—how hands-on the federal government should be versus leaving it up to states and cities. Despite a five-year freeze on government spending, President Obama plans to rewrite No Child Left Behind, and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are ready to join him in this reform. But there will surely be debate about what the details will look like, including national standards, Race to the Top and how states receive funding, standardized testing, emphasis on Math and English at the expense of other subjects, performance pay, and more. Did No Child Left Behind have standards that were too high or is its goal of having “no child left behind’ feasible by 2014?
Kim Anderson, director of government relations, National Education Association
Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs & policy at the Thomas Fordham Institute for Advance Educational Excellence; formerly served in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement