Education Secretary: 82% of US public schools may ‘fail’ this year

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 16:51 EDT
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Education secretary nominee Arne Duncan
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In testimony to Congress Wednesday, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a startling claim: This year, up to 82 percent of public schools could “fail” the government’s “No Child Left Behind” standards.

“No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the Department of Education.

“This law has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed,” Duncan added. “We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk.”

Last year, just 32 percent of schools were failing the government’s rigorous testing standards.

Duncan was speaking to the House Education and Work Force Committee.

The education policies, passed by the Bush administration in 2002, set a number of highly unrealistic deadlines and requirements, and tied school funding to achieving those goals.

Critics have argued the reforms changed schools from centers of learning to testing factories, increasingly irrelevant to students and communities. Increasingly, even Republicans have come to agree that the policies are largely broken.

“The Obama administration’s proposed blueprint for reforming No Child Left Behind recognizes and rewards high-poverty schools and districts that show improvement based on progress and growth,” the Department of Education said, in an advisory.

“States and districts would have to identify and intervene in schools that persistently fail to close gaps. For schools making more modest gains, states and districts would have more flexibility to determine improvement and support options.”

“Our proposal will offer schools and districts much more flexibility in addressing achievement gaps, but we will impose a much tighter definition of success,” Duncan said.

“Simply stated, if schools boost overall proficiency but leave one subgroup behind — that is not good enough. They need a plan that ensures that every child is being served.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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