Obama, lawmakers meet on No Child overhaul

Feb. 17, 2011 at 4:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama is to meet with key U.S. lawmakers Thursday to discuss overhauling the No Child Left Behind education law, the White House said.

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet at the White House with Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn.; George Miller, D-Calif.; Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; and Dale Kildee, D-Mich.; the White House said.

The meeting comes a day after a non-profit education-policy organization said most U.S. states received failing or near-failing grades in teaching American history to primary- and secondary-school students.

Twenty-eight states "deserve D or F grades for their U.S. history standards" for kindergarten to 12th grade, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said Wednesday.

"The average grade across all states is a dismal D," it said.

South Carolina was the only state to earn an A for its standards, said the Washington institute, which seeks "to close America's vexing achievement gaps by raising standards, strengthening accountability and expanding education options for parents and families."

Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia earned A-minuses, the institute said. Oklahoma, Georgia and Michigan were in the B range, it said.

"U.S. history standards across the land are alarmingly weak," institute President Chester Finn said. "No wonder so many Americans know so little about our nation's past. Yet this subject is essential to an educated citizenry."

No Child Left Behind, signed into law Jan. 8, 2002, supports standards-based education reform, based on a belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve education. It requires states to test all students on basic skills in certain grades as a condition for receiving federal school funding.

The law does not set a national achievement standard -- standards are set by each state.

A third of the nation's schools missed the law's testing goals in 2009, vastly more than any level of government can help to improve, the non-profit Center on Education Policy public-education advocacy group said in December.

The Obama administration proposes a new accountability system that would divide schools into more categories, recognize successful schools and provide financial and other support to failing schools or close them.

"The president looks forward to working with this bipartisan group of leaders to revise the federal law so that it is more fair, flexible and focused on helping all students to graduate ready for college and careers," the White House said Wednesday.

A Gallup poll released Feb. 7 indicated 57 percent of Americans favor revising or eliminating former President George W. Bush's signature education law, while 21 percent want to keep it more or less in its current form.

Republicans, Democrats and independents largely agreed the law should be overhauled, the poll indicated.

Duncan said last month Obama's education policy is one area where Democratic and Republican lawmakers and governors "share values and policy ideas."

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