Children left behind?

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Children left behind?
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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took a swing at federal legislation designed to hold educators and schools accountable for achievement gaps to the raucous applause of Alexandrias teachers Thursday. 

We have to fix No Child Left Behind, Duncan said. Much of it is, frankly, broken. We have to be much more flexible and get Washington off of your back. We need to give teachers the room to be creative.

Duncan, former chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, spoke before about 1,200 local educators during the annual Alexandria City Public Schools convocation at T.C. Williams High School.

ACPS has continually struggled to meet state and federal benchmarks mandated under NCLB. In August, school officials learned the district failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards for the fourth consecutive year. Just seven of the districts 19 schools were up to ever-toughening federal benchmarks.

In March, T.C., the citys only public high school, was labeled as persistently low achieving by Washington and Richmond, sparking the much-heralded T.C. transformation a roadmap back to academic success, according to supporters. 

Local officials havent been shy about voicing their frustrations with NCLB and AYP. Superintendent Morton Sherman backs value-added assessments, a statistical technique that uses test data to gauge individual student learning in a given school year, something Duncan alluded to during his address.

We want to get rid of AYP, he said, responding to a question by English teacher Patrick Welsh. All we want to do is focus on growth and gain.

Duncan called for rewarding teachers, school districts and states where improvements are happening rather than focusing on where they arent and moving away from the current nine-month school session to a year-round model. 

Reforming NCLB could begin before the years end, he said. 

Duncan also vowed to continue fighting for more federal resources for local schools. Improving the economy starts in the classroom, Duncan said.

We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and we have to teach at every level, he said. It is an aggressive agenda, but we have to educate our way to a better economy.

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