EDITORIAL: Obama's NCLB rule opens doors to the next steps in education

In 2001, President George W. Bush’s signature reform effort, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law with broad bipartisan support, its centerpiece a bold pledge to hold all students to high standards.

The law, which President Barack Obama said he will dramatically alter in the coming months, requires annual student testing and sets a goal of bringing all American children, regardless of background or disability, to grade level in reading and math by 2014.

An audacious and admirable goal, to be sure, one that focused attention on every student like never before. Under the law, schools are judged a success only if every group of students in the school, including poor students, racial groups and special-education students, meet testing targets that grow more difficult each year. That microscopic view has done wonders to focus America on its neediest students.

But that laudable goal also has proved counterproductive and unworkable, leaving Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan little choice but to rework it.

Obama said he will offer waivers to states that want to opt out of key provisions of the No Child Act, including the mandate that all students reach proficiency by 2014. The waivers are in place of a scheduled 2007 update to the law that Congress has failed to produce. The waivers are reserved for states that will use rigorous “college and career standards” to set new “ambitious but achievable” testing goals, states willing to turn around their weakest schools and states willing to set guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations.

This is not a retreat. We consider this No Child Left Behind, Part 2.

The No Child law set the nation on the right course.

But now we’re ready for the next step: A law that does more than identify the problem, a law that does a better job of moving education in America forward.

04/20/2012 - 6:41am