States Work to Reform Education, Student Tests

Monday, September 26, 2011

When passed by Congress in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act aimed to improve student performance and teacher accountability.
But more than a decade after it was approved, critics say change is needed because successful schools are increasingly being labeled as failures, and the emphasis on testing narrows school curriculum.

Educators and lawmakers say a revamp of the federal education policy is needed immediately.

The action is especially necessary as a majority of schools face sanctions for being, or soon to be, labeled failures under a provision in the act that states 100 percent of the nation's students must be deemed proficient in math and reading by 2014.

In some states, substantial work is already being done to improve testing models.

But changes, tweaks and rewrites to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the 1965 law whose most recent reauthorization is the No Child Left Behind Act, need to be agreed upon by members of Congress.

This is a tall order considering the strained relationship between Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Experts say don't expect federal education policy reform soon.

"I don't see much chance of major progress before the 2012 election, or maybe even then," said David Menefee-Libey, a political science professor at Pomona College. "Congress and the Obama administration have been getting nowhere on (federal education policy) for years. Congress has let the law keep bumping along by allocating money each year and leaving the core provisions unchanged, including that 2014 deadline."

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