A shocking revelation from Education Secretary Arne Duncan Thursday: more than three-quarters of this country's public schools could be labeled as "failing" under No Child Left Behind regulations.
Duncan took aim at the Bush Administration's education policy saying, "This law is fundamentally broken and we need to fix it, and fix it this year."
Appearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Duncan said NCLB "has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed."
Duncan urged lawmakers to get out of the business of labeling schools as failures. Under the federal law, schools were required to meet annual benchmarks in the areas of reading and math, attendance and graduation rates. If schools failed to meet Average Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for three years or more, a series of forced reforms were ordered. No Child Left Behind set an ultimate goal of having every school in the country at 100-percent proficiency by 2014.
In Washington, more than half of the state's schools failed to meet AYP benchmarks in the 2010 school year. To see how your school did go to the OSPI website and click on AYP data by school (overall).
Opponents of NCLB say the law did exactly the opposite of what had been intended. Rather than improving all children's performance, it was leaving more children behind - kids who, for whatever reason, failed to perform on government mandated standardized tests.
One example of the effects of AYP is in the Marysville School District. In 2007, a little more than nine percent of third grade students were passing the now-defunct Washington Assessment of Student Learning test. The district partnered with the Tulalip Tribe and instituted a "Math Recovery" program. Two years later, 24.2 percent of third graders were meeting minimum standards. Unfortunately that wasn't enough of a jump to meet AYP goals. As a result, changes were mandated by the federal government. The next year, scores on the WASL replacement, the Measurement of Student Performance test (MSP), were down for most grade levels at the school.
The Secretary's projection that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled as "failing" is a dramatic increase from last year, with an expected 37 percent more students falling short of AYP in the 2010-2011 school year.
Efforts at changing the law have stalled in Congress. After Duncan's testimony, President Obama met with several lawmakers at the White House. A press memo from the White House says the President "discussed the need to raise expectations, increase teacher effectiveness, provide flexibility for innovation and improvmeent in the education system and incentivize and reward success."