Text from the White House press office:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat. Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I see a whole bunch of people who are interested in education, and we are grateful for all the work that you do each and every day.
I want to recognize the person to my right, somebody who I think will end up being considered one of the finest Secretaries of Education we’ve ever had — Arne Duncan. (Applause.) In addition to his passion, probably the finest basketball player ever in the Cabinet. (Laughter.)
I also want to thank Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee for taking the time to be here today, and the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee. I’m especially appreciative because I found that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time. (Laughter and applause.) But we really appreciate his presence. Thank you.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today delivered remarks in the East Room of the White House highlighting the state’s role as a national leader in education reform.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and educators from across the country at the event where President Barack Obama released criteria for states to receive a waiver to the No Child Left Behind legislation.
In July, Haslam and Huffman said Tennessee would pursue a waiver to No Child Left Behind.
The text of his remarks today is below: Let me begin this morning by thanking Secretary Arne Duncan. We are grateful for your commitment to higher standards, for setting the expectation that every child can learn, and to shrinking the achievement gap. We in Tennessee appreciate the working relationship we have with you and the Department of Education.
As a Republican Governor, I may not always agree with this administration on policy issues or the proper role of the federal government. But I do believe that when there are things we can work on together, we should.
In Tennessee, we have raised our standards, linked teacher evaluation to student performance, and we are holding ourselves accountable. We believe we are most qualified to make our own decisions about how to continue our progress in making certain every child has an opportunity to learn.
I look forward to the federal government narrowing its role in education and allowing Tennessee the flexibility to abide by its own rigorous standards. Education decisions are best made at the state and local levels.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the President of the United States.
News release from Sen. Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Thursdayspoke on the Senate floor about the No Child Left Behind law, the Obama Administration’s plan to announce a waiver plan for states seeking relief from the law’s outdated provisions, and the introduction last week of five Senate Republican bills to fix the law.
Alexander asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to “show restraint” with respect to his waiver-granting power, saying, “Just because the Secretary has every state over a barrel doesn’t mean he should be tempted to use this opportunity to become a national school board.”
Alexander continued: “Step back. Look at the applications for waivers. If they enhance student achievement, say, ‘Yes.’ If they don’t, say, ‘No.’
“Some might say, and they’d be exactly right, that the real reason the Secretary is granting waivers is that Congress hasn’t done its job. We’re in our ninth year of No Child Left Behind and we should have fixed it four years ago when the law expired,” Alexander said. Congress has instead extended it every year without fixing it.
He went on to say that there is “substantial agreement here in the Senate, except for these accountability provisions, these differences over whether we’re creating a national school board. We should come to a conclusion about this. We should get a result. We shouldn’t create a situation where every governor has to come to Washington to get a waiver from standards that don’t work anymore. That’s our job.
“The Secretary has the power to grant waivers, but he should do it in a limited way and Congress should get to work fixing No Child Left Behind so there is no need for waivers. I call on our Democratic colleagues, with whom we’ve met dozens of times, to redouble our joint effort to get a result.
“This is not a case where we don’t want President Obama to succeed, as some have suggested. We want him to succeed, because if the President succeeds on K-12 education, the country succeeds. ”
Gov. Bill Haslam’s push for the federal government to let states seek an exemption from performance standards under the No Child Left Behind school reform law has earned him a supporting role at the White House, reports Michael Collins. Haslam will introduce President Barack Obama today at a White House briefing in which the president will offer states guidance on how they can get around some provisions of the decade-old law, a White House official said Thursday.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in August the administration would allow states to seek a waiver under the law. The Obama administration will spell out today the terms that states must meet to qualify for such an exemption.
Haslam announced in July that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to ask for a waiver under the law, which was enacted under former President George W. Bush. The reforms sought to hold schools more accountable for student performance and get better-qualified teachers in classrooms.
But states have argued the standards are too punitive and don’t adequately measure student achievement. About half of schools in Tennessee currently fall short of meeting the standards under the law, according to the “annual yearly progress” reports for Tennessee schools.
As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects — based on state-administered tests — plus a 90 percent graduation rate. Most Tennessee schools are expected to fall short of those standards next year.
Tennessee’s waiver request basically asks the U.S. Department of Education to drop the federal standards for schools and substitute Tennessee standards.
News release from Alexander, other senators:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)–all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee–today announced they are introducing a series of education bills to “fix” No Child Left Behind.
The senators said that for the nation’s 100,000 public schools, the legislation would end the federal mandates through which Washington, D.C., decides which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
According to the senators, much has happened over the last ten years and it is time to transfer responsibility back to states and communities. Since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2002, 44 states have adopted common core academic standards, two groups of states are developing common tests for those standards, and more than 40 states are developing common principles for holding schools accountable for student achievement.
The senators said their legislation would maintain No Child Left Behind requirements for reporting student performance in reading, math, and science.
Joint news release from Tennessee Congressional Delegation:
WASHINGTON – Members of the Tennessee U.S. congressional delegation announced today that they have sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan supporting Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request for a waiver of the provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.
The full text of the letter, dated July 29, 2011, and signed by Senators Alexander and Corker and Representatives Roe, Duncan, Fleischmann, DesJarlais, Cooper, Black, Blackburn, Fincher and Cohen, follows.
Tennessee will be the first state in the nation to seek a waiver from the performance standards set in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which Gov. Bill Haslam says has “outlived its usefulness” as presently written.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters that they would prefer that Congress revise the law, enacted a decade ago at the urging of then-President George W. Bush.
Given the current environment in Washington, Haslam said “that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon” and he has decided to proceed with a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education.
Announcement of the state’s move coincided with release of the “annual yearly progress” reports for Tennessee schools. The reports show about half of Tennessee schools currently falling short of current NCLB standards.
Under NCLB, those standards are scheduled to continue rising. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects – based on state-administered tests — plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
Huffman said the “vast majority” of Tennessee schools would fail to meet the escalating standards next year
Acknowledging the “very real possibility” that many Tennessee schools cannot meet current federal “No Child Left Behind” standards, Gov. Bill Haslam said today that his administration may seek a waiver from federal officials.
Haslam said he is currently involved in “discussions on what those waivers might look like.” In an interview last week, he said he has worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander on the matter.
“So many schools are not going to meet the standards that something’s going to have to be done,” said Haslam.
President Obama has asked Congress to overhaul the law, but there has been no action. Haslam said in the earlier interview that things appear to be deadlocked in Washington.
Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, enacted at the urging of former President George W. Bush, schools are measured by the progress students make on state tests. Those failing to show adequate progress for two consecutive years are designated as “failing,” and can ultimately lose federal funding.
Also, schools designated as failing must offer federally-approved after-school tutoring services and allow students to transfer to other schools while paying any costs involved.
Under NCLB, standards rise every three years. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subject plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he anticipates most schools nationwide will fail to meet those standards.