Regulatory Relief from NCLB—Thank You Secretary Duncan
Sixteen members of the Learning First Alliance, including Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK), sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on May 24, 2011 (see press release). In that letter, we urged the Secretary to provide regulatory relief to America’s schools in the absence of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It looks that like that’s exactly what Duncan plans to do (see Education Week article by Michele McNeil).
To teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents living outside of the Washington Beltway, the Secretary’s announcement seems like a no-brainer. The Secretary himself has said that a high percentage of U.S. schools will fail AYP this year, and the Washington-based Center on Education Policy pegged the number of failing schools at 82 percent. Our annual PDK/Gallup poll documents that Americans do not support NCLB, and most agree that the requirement that 100 percent of our students be highly proficient by 2014 is unattainable. So what’s the big deal–wasn’t this announcement a long time coming?
Actually, the Secretary’s announcement demonstrates his courage to try to do what’s right, and admittedly, to push a reform agenda. Of course, members of Congress have already expressed their annoyance with him, suggesting that he, as a member of the executive branch, is challenging their Congressional authority, and the expected “inside the beltway” education pundits are chiming in as well.
So again you ask, what’s the big deal? Remember the golden rule? He who has the gold makes the rules. Who allocates funds to federal departments like the Department of Education? Yes, that would be Congress. That’s one of the reasons why this is a courageous announcement.
In truth, Duncan is not challenging Congressional authority. He and the President are challenging Congressional sluggishness as reauthorization of the ESEA is four years overdue and there is no end in sight.
Many years ago I worked for an amazing principal, Richard Kast. If Richard taught me anything, it was to make decisions based on what’s best for students. Mr. Secretary, good for you for expressing what’s best for students, their parents, and their teachers.