Local educators support 'No Child Left Behind' changes

February 1, 2010 8:09:33 PM PST
President Obama is planning a massive overhaul of the controversial "No Child Left Behind" law. He wants to redefine how success and failure are judged in public schools across the country.

Educators in Oakland say "No Child Left Behind" has basically had the opposite of its intended effect. They say they welcome the changes proposed by the president.

"In the 21st century, there is no better anti-poverty plan than a world-class education," President Obama said at the White House Monday.

President Obama's pledge to overhaul the federal "No Child Left Behind" law is getting high marks from some Bay Area educators.

Betty Olson-Jones is the president of the Oakland Education Association. She says, "'No Child Left Behind' was completely unfunded. It put complete emphasis on test scores as a way of measuring students and measuring schools. We believe students need to be measured by much more than a test score and schools that are struggling need support, not punitive sanctions."

Less than 40 percent of Oakland's tenth graders tested "proficient" in math and science on the 2009 Academic Performance Index. Current law penalizes districts like Oakland, that fail to meet minimum standards. President Obama wants to eliminate those penalties and place less emphasis on test scores. The 2014 deadline for all students to meet certain levels would also be eliminated.

Democratic Congressman George Miller of Martinez helped write the original "No Child Left Behind" bill with President Bush in 2002. In the Bay Area Monday, he said he supports the Obama changes.

"That's the kind of leadership that I think we're seeing and that we need," he said. "I look forward to the rewrite of 'No Child Left Behind.'"

Charles Ramsey, a board member in West Contra Costa County where students also fail to meet the federal standard, thinks the new law should include merit pay for teachers.

"The reality is, in this society, we have to look at creative ways to bring about change and what we're doing is not working," he says.

When asked if teachers would support a new model that included merit pay Olson-Jones said no.

"That has not been shown to work in the hundreds of years that it has been around as an idea," she said.

Merit pay for teachers is such a touchy subject that it basically killed the last attempt to rewrite "No Child Left Behind" in 2007.