WASHINGTON – An early Christmas miracle took place Thursday, according to President Barack Obama.
After 10 years, this is the first time that both parties came together to revise the national education law, which gives more power to the states instead of the federal government.
“Today, I’m proud to sign a law that’s going to make sure that every student is prepared to succeed in the 21st century,” Obama said.
No Child Left Behind was meant to set higher standards and establish goals to be measured through standardized testing in public schools. It also required tests for all students in select grade levels and required students to take a statewide standardized test annually for the school to receive federal funding.
Obama said that, although the goals of the law were written with good intentions, it didn’t meet its ultimate goal, success for children in the classroom.
“It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see,” Obama said.
The president broke the new bill into four categories.
First, he said, the law will focus on making sure all students graduate and are prepared for college and careers and will require states to invest in helping schools and students improve, in addition to focusing on lower-performing schools.
Second, he said, the bill will allow states to work together to fix leftover elements of the past education law, especially the “one-size-fits-all approach.”
Third, the president said that the new law “lays the foundation to expand access to high-quality preschools” and “creates incentives for innovative approaches to learning and for supporting great teachers.”
Last, he said, the bill upholds the the intent of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
“With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamental American ideal that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the ZIP code where they live, deserves the chance to make out of their lives what they will,” Obama said.
Obama said the bill is an example of how bipartisanship could work.
“People did not agree on everything at the outset, but they were willing to listen to each other in a civil, constructive way and to work through these issues, compromise where necessary, while still keeping their eye on the ball,” Obama said.
In addition to his remarks on the new bill at a ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the president took time to recognize Arne Duncan, the outgoing secretary of education.
Duncan, who has held the job since 2009, will step down at the end of the year. He will be replaced by John B. King Jr., the current senior adviser to the education secretary.
Obama said the new law comes at a time where students are making strides in their education.
In the 2012-2013 school year, the nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent, the highest since states adopted a new common metric to calculate graduation rates in 2010. The 2010-2011 rate was 79 percent.
According to a report released in November, the number of students dropping out of high school went down from a million in 2008 to 750,000 in 2012.
“We’re in a better position to out-teach and out-compete other nations at a time when knowledge is really the single-biggest determinant of economic performance,” Obama said.
The president ended by stressing the importance of keeping engaged with schools and communities across the country to uphold the principles of the law.
“There’s nothing more essential to living up to the ideals of this nation than making sure every child is able to achieve their God-given potential,” Obama said.
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