the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

President Obama Calls on Congress to Fix No Child Left Behind Before the Start of the Next School Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech at Kenmore Middle School, President Obama urged Congress to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) before the start of the next school year.  The President articulated key priorities for reforming NCLB that will enable us to win the future and prepare our students to out-educate and out-compete the world in the 21st century economy:

  • A fair accountability system that shares responsibility for improvement and rewards excellence, and that is based on high standards and is informed by sophisticated assessments that measure individual student growth;
  • A flexible system that empowers principals and teachers, and supports reform and innovation at the state and local level;
  • And a system focused on the schools and the students most at risk -- that targets resources to persistently low-performing schools and ensures the most effective teachers serve students most in need.

“We need to make sure we’re graduating students who are ready for college and a career.,” President Obama said.  “In the 21st Century, it’s not enough to leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead.  We need to get every child on a path to academic excellence.”
As a recent an analysis from the Department of Education shows, NCLB's broken accountability system means that the overwhelming majority of schools will not meet NCLB's goals and the students most at risk won't get the help they need.  Instead of NCLB's one-size-fits-all mandates, we need to fix this law now so that we can close achievement gaps and win the future.
Over the past several weeks, President Obama has highlighted schools across the country that demonstrate the impact of reforms at the state and local levels, the importance of shared responsibility in education, and most importantly the goal of achieving results.  At Miami Central High School the President highlighted the ability of a community to come together and make the tough reforms and take on the challenging work to turnaround a low-performing school. At TechBoston Academy, the President discussed the shared responsibility and positive results of public and private sectors in the education of our nation’s children.    
In today’s speech, the President praised current efforts by Congressional leaders to replace NCLB and urged Congress to make these vital reforms before the next school year begins.  With the United States lagging far behind international competitors in science, reading and math, the need for swift reform has never been greater.
See below for a fact sheet on fixing No Child Left Behind.

FACT SHEET: Fixing No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a landmark federal law established in 1965.  ESEA was originally established to ensure educational equity for all students.  The law is routinely "reauthorized" by Congress and has not been reauthorized since 2002 – the longest-ever period between rewrites of this law.  
NCLB was proposed by the Bush Administration and enacted by the 107th Congress, in 2001, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote and signed into law in 2002.  NCLB requires each state to set academic standards; test all students periodically in science as well as in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school ; and to set annual accountability targets for every school to meet.  NCLB sets a national goal that by 2014 all students would be "proficient" in reading and math, and requires states and school districts to intervene in schools that miss their annual targets for multiple years.  However, 37% of America's schools today are not meeting their annual targets mandated by NCLB.  The U.S. Department of Education estimates that number could more than double, to over 80% of schools in 2011, highlighting the need to fix the law.
NCLB helped highlight achievement gaps among low-income students, minorities, students with disabilities, and English language learners, and it requires all schools to show whether they are closing these achievement gaps.  However, the law needs urgent attention to be fixed with a new framework that is fair, flexible and focused on results.
The President’s Plan to Fix No Child Left Behind
America’s future economic competitiveness is being decided every day, in classrooms across the nation.  In order to help prepare each of our children to win the future and  succeed in the global marketplace, the President has called upon Congress to act this year to replace NCLB with a law that re-shapes the federal role in education to better promote responsibility, reform and results:

  • One Clear Goal: All Students Graduate College and Career Ready:  President Obama’s plan will replace No Child Left Behind’s accountability system with a new federal framework that is fair, flexible, and focused on helping every student graduate ready for college and career. Instead of labeling more and more schools as “failing” under NCLB, the President wants a smarter system that better focuses meaningful reform on each state’s lowest-performing schools and those with the greatest achievement gaps, while rewarding those that make significant strides in helping their students succeed. The President’s ESEA plan invests in the work underway in 44 states to replace narrow, fill-in-the-bubble tests with a new generation of college- and career-ready tests, the results of which will drive a new accountability system more accurately focused on student learning and growth.
  • A Great Teacher In Every Classroom and A Great Principal In Every School: The President’s ESEA plan will support a new effort to build the teaching profession through reforms that will help states create better systems to recruit, prepare, develop, reward, advance and retain effective educators.  By focusing on teacher effectiveness and driving reforms based in part on evidence of student learning and achievement, this plan will place a greater focus on helping a greater share of  teachers excel while rewarding those that are most successful in the classroom.  The President’s plan provides resources to back the development of teacher evaluation systems that use student learning and other measures to support and identify good teaching.
  • Fostering Innovation and Focusing on Results: New economic and global challenges, as well as new knowledge about learning and effective teaching, demand new models for our schools. The President’s plan supports incorporating more time for learning and enrichment in and out of school; a continuation of the historic Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation Fund; and greater investments in our public schools, including high-performing charter schools, magnet schools, and other autonomous public schools. The President’s ESEA plan supports a continuation of  Race to the Top, with a new focus on supporting school districts that are prepared to implement and sustain comprehensive reforms.  Technology can help schools move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, personalize learning, and enable students to progress and succeed at their own pace.
  • A 21st Century Education for Every Student:  The President’s ESEA plan would dedicate new resources and promote greater state and local flexibility for schools to implement high-quality instruction in reading, math, and science, along with a well-rounded curriculum that will equip students with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. Our nation’s employers need a workforce of critical thinkers, problem solvers, communicators, and collaborators – and looking for candidates who bring creativity and ingenuity to the job. Our entire education system – from standards to assessments to how we train and support teachers – must promote high levels of learning and strong academic skills.

Challenging the Status Quo: All Students Ready for College and Career
Maintaining NCLB vs. The Obama Plan

NCLB Status Quo:  Rely on unsophisticated bubble tests to grade students and schools.
The Obama Plan:   Support better tests.  The Obama Administration has invested $350 million to support states in their efforts to create more sophisticated assessment systems that measure problem solving and other 21st century skills and that will provide teachers will timely information to help them improve instruction.
NCLB Status Quo:  Teachers and principals don’t get credit for improving student scores.
The Obama Plan:  Replace the current pass-fail school grading system with a system that rewards teachers, principals and schools for showing they’ve helped students improve and doesn’t just judge them for how students did on one test on one day.
NCLB Status Quo:  States lowered standards to meet yearly goals under No Child Left Behind.  Often, students graduating from high school need remedial courses in college.
The Obama Plan:  Support efforts of the nation’s governors and State education leaders to adopt college and career ready standards so when kids go to college they won’t need to take remedial courses.
NCLB Status Quo:  A narrow curriculum focused only reading and math.
The Obama Plan:  Invest in state and local efforts to develop a well-rounded curriculum and allow states to include subjects beyond reading and math in their accountability system.
NCLB Status Quo:  Schools that are doing well often get mislabeled as "failing" under No Child Left Behind’s broken accountability system.
The Obama Plan:  Offer greater flexibility to states and school districts in identifying areas of improvement and strategies for addressing poor performance, while requiring more meaningful change in the most challenging schools.
NCLB Status Quo:  Too often the schools with the greatest challenges don’t have the most effective teachers.
The Obama Plan:  Provide incentives and accountability for getting effective teachers to the schools that need them the most, and identifying and leaning from the most effective teachers.
NCLB Status Quo:  The federal government prescribes “one size fits all” solutions.
The Obama Plan:  Do away with unnecessary federal mandates and increase local control to pursue solutions focused on results.  If schools aren’t meeting targets, improvement strategies need to be locally crafted to address the problems in those schools.
NCLB Status Quo:  No Child Left Behind does not promote or reward innovation in schools.
The Obama Plan:  Support competitive grant programs that reward states and schools for changing the system by improving how they get the best teachers in the classroom, extending the school day and year, supporting the creation of smarter tests, using data to improve practice, and raising standards for all kids.
NCLB Status Quo:  Our nation’s lowest-performing schools lack the resources and reforms needed to improve.    
The Obama Plan:  Invest in ambitious and bold efforts to transform our nation’s lowest achieving schools, while demanding new and dramatic change in their leadership and reforms to teaching and learning at those schools.
NCLB Status Quo:  Parents are often under-engaged in their child’s education, and schools are often unwelcoming of parents.
The Obama Plan:  Double the federal investment in family engagement and provide new incentives for schools to develop innovative ways to engage parents and community members.
NCLB Status Quo:  States often lack the resources to support and address the unique challenges of rural schools.
The Obama Plan:  Support innovation and reform directed at rural challenges.  Support the funding necessary for these schools to better use  technology in the classroom and address the challenge of recruiting and retaining effective teachers and principals.