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Obama unveils plan to bolster education system

March 18th, 2010

With an educational system failing to meet the needs of students and teachers alike, the Obama administration has decided that new legislation is essential.  This much anticipated domestic policy would replace the current No Child Left Behind Law which was enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush. The current eight-year-old policy has fallen under scrutiny among liberals and teachers, who claim that it punishes schools that do not meet the benchmarks imposed by the federal government and fails to properly fund schools in need.

The Obama administration’s “A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” would dismantle the concept of annual benchmarks and, instead, institute a series of rewards for schools that demonstrate progress. In his weekly radio address Saturday, Pres. Barack Obama called for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first passed in 1965, which was a staple of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty initiative. Since 1965, it has been reauthorized by Democratic and Republican administrations numerous times.

Obama’s version of reauthorization will be reviewed by the House Education and Labor Committee sometime this week. Obama stressed the importance of putting this reform into law by stating, “Unless we take action, unless we step up, there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.” Under Obama’s proposed $50 billion education plan, students would no longer be called to perform at grade level in areas of reading and math by the year of 2014. Instead, schools would be expected to prepare all graduating high school students for college or a career by 2020.

Schools would also be granted more flexibility by enabling officials to use measurements in subjects other than reading and math to signal progress. With the No Child Left Behind Law, many in the educational field feel that numerous subjects have been neglected at the expense of trying to raise math and reading scores. According to Dean Birch, a political science professor at John Carroll University, “Obama’s plan redirects the focus of education back to all courses with the goal of educating students to be good citizens and human beings.”

On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited the morning talk shows to publicize the administration’s plan. As a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Duncan said, “The previous law led to a lowering of standards and narrowed the curriculum and we want to reverse all that. We want to raise the bar for all children and we want to reward success.”

However, this optimism over the new educational policy is not being felt by all, as several organizations have already expressed doubts in various areas of this reform package. For example, the education community is  particularly concerned with the idea of the government punishing the lowest performing five percent of schools by firing their teachers.

According to the National Education Association’s Web site, NEA President Dennis Van Roeke said, “This blueprint’s accountability system still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers. We were expecting more funding stability to enable states to meet higher expectations.”