(Courtesy of MSN)
WASHINGTON — Decrying the state of American education, President Barack Obama on Friday said states will get unprecedented freedom to waive basic elements of the sweeping Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, calling it an admirable but flawed effort that has hurt students instead of helping them.
Obama’s announcement could fundamentally affect the education of tens of millions of children. It will allow states to scrap the requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 — a cornerstone of the law — if states meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.
And the president took a shot at Congress, saying his executive action was needed only because lawmakers have not stepped in to improve the law for years.
“Congress hasn’t been able to do it. So I will,” Obama said. “Our kids only get one shot at a decent education.”
Video: Obama: Higher education standards needed (on this page)
Under the plan Obama outlined, states can ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law’s requirements if they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.
Despite allowing states to do away with the approaching 2014 deadline, Obama insisted he was not weakening the law, but rather helping states set higher standards. He said that the current law was forcing educators to teach to the test, give short shrift to subjects such as history and science, and lower standards as a way of avoiding penalties and stigmas.
The law is a signature legacy of President George W. Bush’s administration and was approved with strong bipartisan support nearly a decade ago. But its popularity tanked as the years went on, as disputes over money divided Congress, schools said they were being labeled “failures,” and questions soared over the testing and teacher-quality provisions.
“The goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, and President Bush deserves credit for that,” Obama said during a statement from the White House.
“Higher standards are the right goal. Accountability is the right goal. Closing the achievement gap is the right goal. And we’ve got to stay focused on those goals,” Obama said. “But experience has taught us that in its implementation, No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them.”