Vilaseca Welcomes Changes To ‘No Child Left Behind’

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(Host) The Obama Administration is moving to eliminate a key part of the "No Child Left Behind" education law by encouraging individual states to set up their own assessment system for students and schools.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca is pleased by the development, because he says the law is a "one size fits all" approach to education that doesn’t work.

(Kinzel) Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he is recommending a new approach to evaluating students and schools because Congress has failed to make important changes to the "No Child Left Behind" law.

It’s a law that calls for all students in the country to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 based on the results of a common test.    

Schools that fail to meet these requirements face a series of penalties and sanctions and ultimately they could be forced to close.

Last year, 72% of all Vermont schools failed to meet the annual requirements of the law.

Secretary Duncan is encouraging all states to develop their own assessment systems and Vermont Education commissioner Armando Vilaseca is enthusiastic about this new approach:  

(Vilaseca) "We would be supportive of looking at a waiver that would help us break away from the current No Child Left Behind requirements and help us start adapting and adopting new assessment measures that are more reflective of what’s really going on and that are more comprehensive meaning that there’s more than just one. There could be multiple assessments."

(Kinzel) Vilaseca says the new approach doesn’t reduce the need to hold schools and students accountable for their performance – he says it just does it in a different way:

(Vilaseca) "It’s the measurement of how we determine growth or success of a school, success of a teacher, success of a student, success of a system, on more than just one test."

(Kinzel) As an example, Vilaseca wants to have an assessment model that measures the growth progress of each student:

(Vilaseca) "Not just one line that says all 10 year olds will be here because we know that all 10 year olds can be all over the place or all 12 year olds.  They can be very gifted or very talented at math but struggling in other areas or visa versa so we want to be certain that we are using growth and students’ ability to continue to improve as the measure of how well schools and students are doing."

(Kinzel) The state’s teachers union, Vermont NEA, has been a long time critic of the No Child Left Behind Law.  Spokesperson Joel Cook:

(Cook) "We welcome federal acknowledgement at long last that punishing schools and their communities for student test scores is not any way to help them educate our children."

(Kinzel) The State Board of Education is expected to discuss the new waiver process at its monthly meeting in Montpelier on Tuesday.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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