The Obama administration’s decision to exclude North Carolina from the federal No Child Left Behind program means the state must continue on the road to education reform.
Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced waivers for Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
“These eight additional states are getting more flexibility with federal funds and relief from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all federal mandates in order to develop locally-tailored solutions to meet their unique educational challenges,” Duncan said.
“States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility. These states met that bar,” she said.
That doesn’t mean North Carolina’s job is done. Far from it. Obtaining a waiver from No Child Left Behind was probable because of the state’s participation in Race to the Top, another federal initiative to improve overall education. Among the criteria for Race to the Top are other options such as more charter schools. The governor and her administration can apply for the program, but the legislature must take steps to improve education, such as removing the charter schools cap.
Lawmakers did so, and North Carolina is committed to Race to the Top.
No Child Left Behind contained many educational principles advocated by former Gov. Jim Hunt, who worked closely with previous presidential administrations on reform issues.
Race to the Top contains strict accountability measures. That means teachers and students must improve classroom performance. The difference now is that North Carolina has flexibility in deciding how best to give a boost to education and meet college- and career-ready standards.
One critic of No Child Left Behind is U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who calls it a flawed, one-size-fits-all program that does not fit the demographics of all states, including North Carolina. She’s happy the waiver was approved, as are many North Carolina school officials.
However, Race to the Top – with its flexibility and lofty goals – means failure for lack of progress can’t be blamed on initiative deficiencies. Not that Race to the Top is perfect, but it is regarded as a superior program.
The demands of parents and employers for an improved educational system – one that shows positive results in comparison to student performance in other countries – has guaranteed reform. The degree of improvement rests within North Carolina’s borders, and the state will get more money from Washington to help.