Controversial education law No Child Left Behind long overdue for overhaul 

No Child Left Behind, the controversial federal education law that created a nationwide system of high-stakes standardized tests, is long overdue for a Congressional reauthorization. Now, frustrated by lawmakers’ inaction, Obama administration officials say they will offer states waivers for some of the law’s requirements.

That came as good news to California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“If the U.S. Department of Education and the Administration are actually open to a state-determined accountability system, I would welcome it because flexibility is appropriate, warranted and urgently needed,” Torlakson said in a statement released this afternoon.

State officials have yet to review the details of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s proposal, which are not complete. Without knowing what the secretary has in mind, Torlakson would not say whether California would apply for waivers.

“While the California Department of Education will need to review the details of the Secretary’s proposal once they are made available, the need for an alternative model for accountability is clear,” he said. “And I’m pleased with the progress we are making in our work with the Legislature to put one forward.”

Torlakson was referring to SB 547, which would create a new system for assessing public schools that would be based on more than a single test. Rather, beginning in 2014, the state would look at measures such as how well schools prepare students for college or careers.

Erin Gabel, CDE’s director of legislative affairs, said that while SB 547 would not take effect soon enough to replace No Child Left Behind, the department supported the concept.

“We believe school accountability is about more than just a single bubble test,” she said.

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