Providing Our Schools Relief from No Child Left Behind

When I was superintendent in Chicago, I never looked forward to a call from Washington telling me what I have to do. Now that I'm in Washington, I try not to make those calls.

Our job is to support reform that is good for students at the state and local level.  We need to get out of the way wherever we can.  We need to be tight on the goals but loose on the means of achieving them -- providing as much flexibility as possible, while maintaining meaningful accountability for improving student outcomes and closing achievement gaps.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) got it backwards -- it was loose on the goals but tight on the means -- and today it's forcing states into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don’t work.

The President understands this and he has directed the Department of Education to move ahead in providing relief in return for reform.

With the new school year fast approaching and still no bill to reform NCLB, it’s time to create a process for states to gain flexibility from key provisions of the law, provided that they are willing to embrace education reform.

We will not be giving states a pass on accountability. There will be a high bar for states seeking flexibility within the law, working off a framework that the states themselves have put together with the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Over the past few days, I have talked with more than half of the nation’s governors, and they are pushing us to provide the relief they desperately need and want.

There is no magic bullet for fixing education, and the best ideas will always come from the local level, where hardworking men and women in our schools are doing the hard work every day to educate our children.

We're still hopeful that Congress can continue its work this fall because a strong bipartisan reauthorization continues to be essential.  In the meantime, states and districts have an opportunity to move forward and receive relief from NCLB’s mandates.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
Related Topics: Education
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