Commentary: No child left behind overhaul targets its flaws

This editorial board has been clamoring for changes in the No Child Left Behind education act for most of the eight years the act has been around. So in our eyes the reforms President Barack Obama announced over the weekend are tardy.

But Obama's administration has rightly made an overhaul a condition of reauthorizing the act, targeting the flaws that have kept it from coming close to fulfilling the promise of "leaving no child behind."

Those flaws have been evident almost from the start. The law set goals without providing adequate tools for states to meet those goals. The accountability system is problematic, based on different tests from different states - tests that vary widely in rigor. The system doesn't even track the progress of individual students. And by focusing on math and reading proficiency, NCLB has narrowed the curriculum nationwide and led to widespread "teaching to the test."

The changes being proposed in a 41-page blueprint that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is taking around this week to gain congressional support tackle most of those problems directly. They track individual academic growth over time - and hold teachers accountable for a student's failure to show progress. And instead of being judged primarily on tests - which led to the "teaching to the test" phenomenon - schools are to be judged on a wider range of criteria, such as graduation rates, teacher turnover and pupil attendance.

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