Opinion:  We need to fix No Child Left Behind
Minnesota Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, reads to a Kindercare class in Burnsville in August, 2010.
January 6th, 2012
04:38 PM ET

Opinion: We need to fix No Child Left Behind

By John Kline, Special to CNN

Editor's note: John Kline is a Republican congressman from Minnesota and chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

(CNN) - Ten years ago, "No Child Left Behind" became the law of the land.

Enacted under President George W. Bush's administration with the promise to focus on individual student achievement and overall school performance, No Child Left Behind was heralded as groundbreaking. And in some ways, it was.

The expanded use of data helped superintendents, principals and teachers pay more attention to the students with the greatest need. Parents now have more access to important information about the quality of teachers and schools, and some student achievement gaps have narrowed.

Hindsight is 20/20, and after a decade of No Child Left Behind, we can clearly identify the law's weaknesses.

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy • Voices
January 6th, 2012
01:20 PM ET

GPS special re-airs: Fixing Education

This Saturday at 8pm and 11pm ET/PT, Fareed Zakaria's GPS primetime special – “Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education” will re-air. So if you missed it in November, make sure you catch it now.

While America was once tops in education, we are now ranked 15th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math.

What happened? How can we dig ourselves out of this deep hole?

For inspiration, we go to South Korea and Finland – two nations that consistently rank highly on education. Interestingly, the two have very different approaches. South Korea has long school days and school years with a strong focus on standardized testing. Finland is much more lackadaisical – except in its approach to teachers and teaching. In Finland, teachers are revered; it’s tougher to get into masters programs for teaching than it is to get into higher education for medicine and law.

So what can we learn? We talked about the priorities of teachers, testing, and technology with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates whose foundation has given $5 billion to education so far; we speak with former DC schools chair Michelle Rhee, and education activist Diane Ravitch. We look at a novel way of teaching, started by a former investment manager who stumbled upon a formula for student success: Sal Khan is the creator of the Khan Academy, a YouTube-based “classroom” that so far has gotten over 80 million hits – and reports of success using it in real classrooms.

Finally, Fareed offers his take on what will fix our troubles.

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Filed under: video
January 6th, 2012
11:48 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

Huffington Post: Walter Dean Myers Appointed New National Ambassador For Young Readers
The U.S. Library of Congress selected Walter Dean Myers as its third National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Myers is known for young adult literature with themes that include murder and war.

NYDailyNews.com: Against Walter Dean Myers and the dumbing down of literature: 'Those kids' can read Homer
One of Myers' critics says that while Myers intended goal is to make urban kids think, his books don't allow them to think deeply enough.

Los Angeles Times: Students sample the large shelf of California literature
California's movie industry may be better known, but a slew of courses are introducing college students to the state's literary offerings.

Cleveland.com: Literacy today means more than reading, writing and a high school diploma, report says
A report about one Ohio county shows that not enough students are becoming fluent in the skills that modern jobs require, and the region's economy is taking a hit as a result.

New York Times: Teachers Resist High-Tech Push in Idaho Schools
Idaho's legislature passed a law requiring high school students to take take some of their classes virtually. Some teachers argue the technology mandate won't increase learning, and that students perform better when there is a teacher by their side.

January 6th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Critics say proposed Tenn. bill could enable harassment in schools

A proposed bill that will be debated in Tennessee would create a loophole in state schools' anti-discrimination laws that could protect students who engage in harassment if it falls under their religious or political beliefs, opponents of the bill told CNN.

Currently schools in the state are being required to adopt policies that prohibit harassment and bullying.

Supporters of the bill say their goal is to make sure whatever policies are implemented will keep in mind a student’s freedom of expression and protect the student from being punished merely for expressing their views so long as they aren’t threatening harm or damaging property.

“This bill clarifies that the policy may not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and may not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views as long as such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or of damage to a student's property,” the bill states.

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Filed under: Policy
Five minute primer: No Child Left Behind
President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan while speaking at an event on reform of the No Child Left Behind Act in September 2011.
January 6th, 2012
08:10 AM ET

Five minute primer: No Child Left Behind

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Ten years ago, on January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law.  Since then, the law has been the topic of numerous discussions among lawmakers, educators and parents. Want to know more about it?  If you’ve got five minutes, you can learn the basics of NCLB here. Read on.


NCLB, as it came to be called, enjoyed bipartisan support in its early days. Although it is often associated with President George W. Bush, one of its sponsors was the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. The bill was actually an update of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was aimed at supporting disadvantaged students in low-income area schools. ESEA was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. With Bush’s signature in 2002, NCLB became the most sweeping federal legislation on education, with far-reaching impact in the nation’s schools.


There are many provisions to NCLB, including sections on safe and drug-free schools and parental involvement, but its intention is to drive and measure student achievement.  At the heart of the law is a mandate for accountability and measured student outcomes, derived primarily from state-administered standardized tests that are given annually in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading.

Under NCLB, all schools are striving toward “100 percent proficiency” in math and reading by the 2013-2014 school year. That means that all students must perform to satisfaction on state tests in these subject areas by spring 2014.  Since this provision went into effect, states have set their own benchmarks toward achieving the 100% goal. The yearly benchmarks are called Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.

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Filed under: NCLB • Policy