Duncan: NCLB Overhaul Needs To Begin Now

Extra Credit
Duncan on ESEA Reauthorization

In this video, Education Secretary Arne Duncan issues his call to action on ESEA's reauthorization. For those whose Internet providers block YouTube, the text of the speech can be found here.

The No Child Left Behind Act has not only failed to improve student outcomes, it's actually contributing to a decline in academic standards in the United States--this according to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has issued a call for the immediate overhaul of NCLB.

In making his appeal to educators and lawmakers to take immediate action on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in a radically modified form, Duncan went so far as to say that the effect of NCLB has been to turn education leaders into liars by making it appear that students are improving academically when, in fact, they are worse off than when the 2002 reauthorization went into effect under President George W. Bush.

"... [T]he biggest problem with NCLB is that it doesn't encourage high learning standards," Duncan said. "In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling kids they are succeeding when they are not."

However, NCLB has been effective in a couple areas, Duncan noted. It has helped bring to light the achievement gap that exists between various ethnic and economic groups in the country; and it has emphasized accountability for student outcomes, he said.

Duncan issued his call to action Thursday, urging a number of reforms to help transform ESEA into a force that will drive academic success and prepare students for higher education or the workforce. Highlights from the proposed changes to the law included:

  • A decreased reliance on bubble tests;
  • A greater emphasis on student academic growth or improvement within an institution so that schools and teachers receive proper credit for improving outcomes for underachieving students;
  • New means of assessing the effectiveness of educators and education leaders;
  • Programs to couple the highest-performing teachers with the students who need their help most; and
  • Stepped-up efforts to recruit highly effective teachers and administrators.

"Today, I am calling on all of you to join with us to build a transformative education law that guarantees every child the education they want and need--a law that recognizes and reinforces the proper role of the federal government to support and drive reform at the state and local level," Duncan said in a speech Thursday. "Our role in Washington is to support reform by encouraging bold, creative approaches to addressing underperforming schools, closing the achievement gap, strengthening the field of education, reducing the dropout rate and boosting college access."

The call to action took place during a meeting with education stakeholders this week, a video of which can be accessed on the United States Department of Education's YouTube channel here. A number of additional forums, part of ED's "Listening and Learning Tour," are scheduled through the rest of the year, meetings in which attendees will be offering input on the law. The location and dates are listed below.


ESEA Stakeholder Meeting Schedule

There will be five additional meetings about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (most recently reauthorized under the name No Child Left Behind, or NCLB). All will be an hour and a half in length and will be held at the Barnard Auditorium, Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, 400 Maryland Ave. S.W., Washington, DC.

Dates are as follows:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 20, 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2 p.m.


About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .