Local parents, educators laud 'No Child Left Behind' changes


President Obama announced changes to the education law on Friday, but states will have to meet certain conditions to make any changes.

Educators and advocates agree: No Child Left Behind is a well-intended, but flawed, law.

Education Trust-West Executive Director Arun Ramanathan, says the group has always supported the law but welcomes the change. The organization Ramanathan oversees is an advocacy group for the same low-performing students that No Child Left Behind was designed to help.

"We're excited about the announcement because we also know NCLB was not a perfect law," Ramanathan said. "What the president's announcement allows states to do is to come up with a plan for an improved system."

Critics of No Child Left Behind say it forced teachers to change their curriculum to focus only on material needed to pass standardized tests. Critics also say the law labeled the majority of schools as failures because of unrealistic goals.

"The incredible burden of carrying No Child Left Behind on the backs of teachers and schools has been a major source for depression and has kept us from being able to focus on really teaching," said Dennis Kelly with the United Educators of San Francisco.

Under the Obama plan, states can now ask for exemption from some of the law's requirements by meeting certain conditions.

"Improved teaching and learning in the state, to make sure that all students are prepared for college and career, and to make sure that our highest-need schools -- our lowest-performing schools -- get the interventions and supports that they need.

Dianne Feinstein Elementary PTA President Liz Isaacs says while she and most parents don't understand the intricacies of No Child Left Behind, they have felt the bursen it put on teachers. Isaacs said she welcomes to opportunity for change.

"In my opinion, anything that enables states, the school districts and even schools at the local level to have more flexibility and independence to decide what's best for the outcomes of their kids...works for me," Isaacs said.

There could be more change ahead: The GOP-led House Education Committee has three bills in the works that would revamp a portion of No Child Left Behind, but none of them tackle the issues of teacher effectiveness and accountability.

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