Obama Overstated Failing Schools Under U.S. Law, Study Finds

Friday, December 16, 2011

Almost half of U.S. public schools are labeled failing under the federal No Child Left Behind law, compared with the 80 percent estimate President Barack Obama’s administration cited as a rationale for changing its mandates, a study found.

The estimated percentage of schools that didn’t show adequate progress toward passing state standardized tests of math and reading was 48 percent in 2011, a record and an increase from 39 percent in 2010, according to a report today by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based nonpartisan research group.

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited the 80 percent figure this year in justifying a plan to offer waivers to the law for states that agree to abide by the administration’s education agenda, including tying teacher evaluations to student performance. Congress is also considering a rewrite of the legislation. The lower estimate still shows the need for change, said Jack Jennings, the center’s president.

“Whether it’s 50 percent or 80 percent, the law is too crude a measure of what is considered failing,” Jennings said in a phone interview. “The law is defective, and Duncan is right to want to change it.”

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