Education Standards Likely To See Toughening From Obama

Details are now being unveiled for President Obama’s plan to reform education.  While focusing on the positive aspects and criticizing the negatives of former President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law, Obama’s team has been keeping his plans under wraps.  However, it is now known that Obama intends to work with Congress to rewrite the law later this year.  The new law will call for tougher requirements on teacher quality and academic standards.  Another key focus of the overhaul will be a concentration on failing schools, as well as a change in testing requirements, though this will definitely not disappear.

Education at one point was handled on a state and local level.  This new plan will also see an increase in federal involvement.  One cause for an increased participation is a stimulus law which will direct $3 billion for school turnarounds.  This money will be directed at the 6,000 schools in this nation that are currently labeled as in need of corrective action or restructuring.  However, in order to receive this money, governors will have to guarantee vigorous action that leads to drastic changes in the testing target achievement of their schools.  In order to receive aid for public schools, governors will also need to subscribe to 4 assurances, including the improvement in standardized test quality and the assignment of teachers equitably to all students regardless of socioeconomic factors.

In addition to the money spent to turnaround failing schools, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has another reason to improve schools – actually $5 billion reasons.  Obama has given Duncan control of this money, which he has labeled as a “Race To The Top” fund.  This incentive will reward states that make good on their pledges to reform and repair their education system.

Prior to federal intervention, each school was allowed to set their own academic curriculum, which resulted in some states “dumbing down” tests and lesson plans.  The new stimulus plan requires that when a high school student graduates, they are able to succeed in another arena, be it college or the workplace, without any sort of remedial assistance.  The new plan also imposes a deadline of 2014 to have math and reading proficiency for 100% of American students.

One controversial facet of this new package is the use of data systems.  While Obama and his staff believe that the use of data systems will be beneficial for reviewing where changes are needed, teachers and union representatives are not expressing the same vision.  The systems, which would track teachers and their students to review grading and student progress, may be misused, which could lead to unfair reporting.

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