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Two Pro-Common Core Groups Urge Against Overhaul of No Child Left Behind

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Two pro-Common Core advocacy groups are now urging against a dramatic overhaul to another education reform effort – No Child Left Behind.

After a bipartisan Senate bill was introduced Tuesday with backing from the White House to replace the Bush-era federal education reform, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Wade Henderson wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post urging against any major changes.

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“Are we going to bow to the special interests of adults, or will we stand strong for the special interest that has no lobby — our children?” said the op-ed written by leaders of interest groups. “We have made great progress for millions of kids since NCLB. Let’s not return to a time when these students were left in the shadows.”

The op-ed says that while now, “accountability is directed from Washington” that states should have more flexibility to implement strong standards. Taking on one of the thorniest aspects of national standards, Donohue and Henderson defended the standardized testing.

“First, students must be given annual statewide assessments, which provide the only way for us to accurately measure what students are learning,” the op-ed said. “Let’s be clear: The federal law only requires students to be tested once or twice a year. Concern about overtesting is driven by local and state policies, not by Washington.”

Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Conference have been Common Core supporters. While support for NCLB and Common Core often doesn’t overlap, opposition to both is based heavily on concerns of federalizing education, which has traditionally been under local control, as well as concerns over too much testing.

Since President Barack Obama’s Department of Education has issuing NCLB waivers to school districts and adopted new standards. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have voiced support for Common Core, and tied “Race to the Top” state education grants with the standards.

The bill to replace NCLB is co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Education Committee. A hearing on the legislation is scheduled for April 14.

Alexander and Murray say their bill will eliminate the need for schools to seek waivers from some of the burdensome aspects of No Child Left Behind. Under the bill, the states would design accountability measures that are subject to federal approval; continue the often unpopular testing but allow the states to determine the weight of testing when evaluating the performance of schools; and provide federal grants to low performing school districts.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest expressed general support for the Senate legislation.

“Today’s announcement from Senator Alexander and Senator Murray is an important step in their bipartisan effort to replace the No Child Left Behind Act,” Earnest said in a statement. “As Congress continues its work, President Obama will continue to insist on providing our schools with greater flexibility to invest in what works, making sure that teachers aren’t confined to teaching to the test, putting resources behind innovation in our education system, and expanding opportunities for America’s children to attend high-quality preschool.”

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