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Bennet Says ‘ No Child’ Law Did A Disservice

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Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (AP) – U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Monday that the proposed reauthorization of No Child Left Behind is not perfect, but that the law in its current form is flawed.

Bennet, a Democrat who was previously the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, made the comments after visiting with students and teachers at a middle school in suburban Wheat Ridge.

Bennet has included a provision in the reauthorization of the Bush-era law that focuses on training and recruiting principals, which he called “a critical ingredient to driving school reform and phenomenal teachers.”

A Senate committee gave preliminary approval last week to a proposal that essentially guts No Child Left Behind and gives states more control over school accountability. The proposed bill would also alter some of the law’s proficiency requirements.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this year.

Bennet said he shares concerns from groups and the Obama administration that the proposed reauthorization doesn’t go far enough to ensure school accountability.

“Having said that, I really came to believe when I was a school superintendent that there really is a limit to what Washington can do here,” he said. “This is really about our communities coming together, about the leadership of the school district, our teachers and our principals and the entire community coming together to say, `We’re not doing well enough by our kids.”‘

The Obama administration has also expressed disappointment of Congress’ inability to agree on changes to No Child Left Behind. As a result, states are being allowed to seek waivers from some of the law’s requirements if they meet certain criteria. The majority of the states, including Colorado, have said they would seek waivers, which could be issued as early as next year.

“No Child Left Behind did a huge disservice,” Bennet said. “One of the most important things it did well was is it showed us the enormous gaps that exist in our country between kids living in poverty and more affluent kids.”

“But the measuring stick was all screwed up because it was asking an irrelevant question,” Bennet continued. “Which is how did this year’s fourth graders do compared to last year’s fourth graders.”

Bennet visited students Monday while they were in classes, including one where sixth graders were discussing how a bill becomes a law. Bennet compared being in Congress to the bickering that happens in middle schools and one student asked if it gave the senator a headache to hear people arguing all the time. After some laughter in the classroom, Bennet replied, “Yes, yes it does.”

By Ivan Moreno, Associated Press

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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