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Obama to outline education law overhaul, seeks to make "No Child Left Behind" more flexible

President Barack Obama makes a statement about his budget during a news conference on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
President Barack Obama makes a statement about his budget during a news conference
President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama on Monday will outline a comprehensive overhaul of former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education policy, emphasizing increased flexibility among states and schools to determine the best path toward educational improvement.

Speaking before students at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, Mr. Obama will present a timeline for rewriting Mr. Bush's law, which many have criticized for setting inflexible federal guidelines and abandoning schools determined as "failing."

"In the 21st century, it's not enough to leave no child behind," Obama will say, according to an excerpt of his prepared remarks released by the White House. "We need to help every child get ahead. We need to get every child on a path to academic excellence."

Mr. Obama reportedly met with the chairs and ranking members of committees that oversee the education authorization bill last week, White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes told Bloomberg News. She said the president's hope is that new legislation can be crafted before the beginning of the next school year.

Arne Duncan, secretary of the Department of Education, said in a conference call yesterday that the current iteration of the bill is "too one-size-fits-all," according to Bloomberg, arguing that as it stands, the law "has created dozens of ways for schools to fail, but very few ways for schools to succeed."

"We need to fix this law now," he said. "We want to create a new law that is fair, flexible and focused on the schools and students most at risk."

Duncan said that 82 percent of U.S. public schools public schools were currently in jeopardy of failing to meet their education targets, according to the Washington Post.

Under the law as it currently stands, schools are graded on a pass-fail scale based on the results of standardized tests administered to students. Failing schools - many of which serve low-income communities - are punished, and often shut down altogether or turned over to a charter operator or private firm.

Mr. Obama's plan, alternately, proposes to provide incentives to educators who demonstrate medium- and long-term improvements. It also aims to remove strict focus from standardized testing, instead providing resources "to back the development of teacher evaluation systems that use student learning and other measures to support and identify good teaching," according to a White House fact sheet on the issue.

"Today, far too many teachers feel they have to do with a narrow curriculum focused only on reading and math," Duncan said, according to the Hill. "We need to invest in state and local efforts to support a well-rounded curriculum and allow states to include subjects beyond reading and math in their accountability systems."

Mr. Obama has also emphasized the importance of preparing students for the future.

"We need to make sure we're graduating students who are ready for college and a career," he said in a statement on Sunday.