Obama Admin. Re-evaluates 'No Child Left Behind'

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The Obama administration wants to do away with parts of the No Child Left Behind Act started under former President George W. Bush.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been quietly making rounds across the country for the White House overhaul to "No Child Left Behind."

"Unless we step up, there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential," President Obama said in his weekly Internet address.

Now, it's "showtime" in front of the crowd that really matters-- Congress.

The first order of business is dropping the name "No Child Left Behind."  Duncan says the brand is "toxic."

Margaret Spellings, former education secretary and one of the authors of the law, disagrees.

"It has become a tarnished brand, but oddly, I carry that as a badge of honor because it has really, it shows the power of the law," Spellings said. "If you walk down the street today and you say 'have you ever heard of no child left behind?' Most people would say, yes we have."

A blueprint shows the Obama administration's lesson plan. It calls for students to be "college and career ready" when they graduate from high school, by the year 2020.

That's a change from the current priority, that students are at "grade-level" in reading and math by the year 2014.

There would still be yearly tests in reading and math, but progress in other subjects, like history and art would also be measured.

"We want to see real change and do it with a sense of urgency so where we have an ability to have pretty dramatic change," Duncan said. "Not a 10 year plan, not a 15 year study, but for children right now, today, that need a better opportunity, we want states to start to do that."

Schools with the biggest gains in student achievement, particularly in low income neighborhoods, would be rewarded with money and flexibility.

As far as punishment goes, the lowest performing five percent of schools would be the biggest targets, with threats like replacing principals and teachers, or closing schools altogether.

But some say that could mean no one's watching the schools in the middle.

"I worry that if you let everybody else off the hook, then we're going to go back to the good ol' days of not paying attention to minority, special ed and really every kid in every school in America," Spellings said.

Other changes include a focus on what the White House calls "race to the top," where states compete for grant money based on plans for reform.

The "school choice," which offered students in under-performing districts tutoring and transfers, is now out. And this plan adds about three billion dollars, making the total price tag $28 billion.

The biggest worry could be coming together. The White House wants education reform passed this year, but it's going to take some bipartisanship, and we all know how that's going.

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