Duncan: Keeping No Child Left Behind Is 'Height Of Arrogance Or Tone-Deafness'

Duncan: Keeping No Child Left Behind Is 'Height Of Arrogance Or Tone-Deafness'

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a mass override Monday that would allow states to apply for regulatory relief from student testing requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

One of the provisions of the regulation aims to have all students proficient in math and reading by 2014, but the law has actually encouraged states to lower standards, Duncan has said. The major override would create distinct accountability systems among states, countering what Duncan called "one-size-fits all solutions that simply don't work."

Tuesday morning, the Education Secretary spoke with John Hockenberry of The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, in response to the overhaul and its implications.

A few highlights:

Hockenberry asks if the overhaul is just another way to say that students will not be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Duncan responds:

It's not. What I want to say is that if one child— right now the law's what I call a blunt instrument. If you have one child in one subgroup not making it, that school is treated as a failure just as a school that has 1,000 students not making it. And we just think the story's much more complex than that. And where you have significant growth and gain, we should be recognizing that, rewarding that, celebrating that, learning from it, incentivizing that. Where schools are legitimately struggling, we absolutely need to deal with that. But what we want to do is take a much more thoughtful approach to this, and much fairer, frankly, in how we evaluate schools and districts and ultimately states.

Hockenberry later plays a clip from former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, a vocal critic of No Child Left Behind.

"[Duncan is] saying, 'If you don't like the law, I will give you a waiver, but you have to do what I say, and what I say is you must evaluate teachers by their student test scores,' and virtually every testing expert in the country has said you cannot do that with individual teachers. It doesn't work," Ravitch says in the clip.

To which Duncan responds that he and his department has the ability to waive portions of the law. He adds:

But to maintain a law that is so fundamentally broken that teachers and principals and students reject and are rebelling against because it doesn't make sense, to just sit here passively in Washington and do nothing, to me, would be the height of arrogance or the height of tone-deafness.

Listen to the full interview below, or visit The Takeaway for a full transcript of the exchange.

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