Yesterday my daughter (4) asked me what my column this week is about. So I told her, it’s about this law for schools that needs to be changed but the people in charge can’t agree on how to do it. “You mean they all want something different?” she asked. I said, yeah, pretty much. And she responded, “well that will never work!” My School of Thought column this week at TIME has a little more context but that’s actually a pretty good synopsis:
The Obama Administration is doubling down on its push to overhaul the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Last Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before Congress and aggressively urged action to revise the landmark and contentious education law that was passed in 2001. The President began this week with a speech at a northern Virginia middle school urging Congress to act and then spent part of Tuesday cutting several radio interviews prodding Capitol Hill even more.
This isn’t the first time the Administration has implored Congress to change this law: it’s been a constant drumbeat since 2009 (the law was due to be “reauthorized,” Washingtonspeak for tuned up, in 2007 but Congress couldn’t agree on how to do it) and even during the 2008 campaign. Now, frustrated with the lack of action, Obama and Duncan are trying a new approach: scaring Congress into acting. Both Obama and Duncan are highlighting Department of Education estimates that more than 80% of schools will not meet performance targets this year if the law isn’t changed. One wag dubbed the new strategy a “fail wail.”
Congress didn’t seem to buy the new 80% figure, or at least didn’t care. And it’s not a very credible number to begin with…But Obama doesn’t have a lot of cards left to play and he does have a basic point worth heeding: the No Child law was never intended to run for nine years without some changes, and it’s starting to show its age.