by Sally Holland, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republicans on Capitol Hill Wednesday criticized Education Secretary Arne Duncan's use of waivers for schools that haven't met the benchmarks for the No Child Left Behind law
"I don't believe that the language of the law allows the secretary to provide conditional waivers," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minnesota, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
When No Child Left Behind originated over 10 years ago, it set standards that students had to meet by certain dates or the schools would face sanctions. As the standards have gotten progressively higher, schools have had difficulty reaching the goals. Last fall, the Obama administration began providing waivers for schools that were unable to reach the benchmarks.
Bills to reauthorize and rework the No Child Left Behind Act are waiting for floor debate in both the House and Senate.
"Our children only get one shot at a world-class education and they cannot wait any longer for reform. And that's why we've offered states regulatory relief from (No Child Left Behind) in exchange for reforms that drive student achievement," Duncan said.
Kline, meanwhile, said in his opening statement: "The obscure process of granting these quid pro quo waivers leads me to question whether states are being pressured to adopt the administration's preferred reforms."
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By Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Sam Chaltain is a Washington-based writer and education advocate. He can be found on Twitter at @samchaltain.
Should parents who are unhappy with their local school have the power to replace the entire staff, turn it into a charter school or shut it completely – even if just 51% of the school’s families agree?
It’s an enticing, polarizing proposal, the so-called “parent trigger.” It’s also now a law in four states and the subject of debate in scores of others. But is it a good idea? In the end, will parent trigger laws help parents more effectively ensure a high-quality public education for their children, or will they result in a reckless short-circuiting of the democratic process itself?
The answer, of course, is “it depends,” and what it depends on is the way parents and communities go about evaluating the quality of their neighborhood schools – and, when necessary, deciding on the most constructive path forward.
Here’s what we know: having more parents more directly engaged in the education of their children is a highly desirable goal. If teachers are the incremental x-factor to a student’s success in school, parents are the exponential p-factor to their child’s success both in school and in life. So I’m for anything that has the chance to help parents better understand what great teaching and learning really looks like – and requires.
We also know that for far too long, a family’s ZIP code has determined their child’s access to the American dream, and too many neighborhood schools have failed to inspire and elevate the passions and possibilities of the students they serve. So I’m also for anything that gives poor families better choices when it comes to where their child goes to school.