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Obama's 'Blueprint for Reform' in Education Goes to Congress

Goal is for all students to be able to graduate from high school "ready for college and a career" by 2020. But teachers unions and other groups object to parts of the plan.

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

President Obama sent Congress a proposal this week to rewrite the main federal education law. The current version of the law, signed by George W. Bush eight years ago, is known as the No Child Left Behind Act. That name would go away.

The current policy calls for every student to be able to pass state tests in reading and math by two thousand fourteen. All schools must show yearly progress toward this goal. But states decide how much students need to know to show "proficiency."

President Obama's goal is that every student should graduate from high school -- in his words -- "ready for college and a career." The target date for schools is twenty twenty. The president described the plan in his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday.

BARACK OBAMA:" What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states and from local schools and school districts."

Under the new proposal, states and school systems would compete for federal grants. The idea is similar to the administration's four billion dollar Race to the Top competition to reform schools.

Struggling schools could receive money for teacher improvement and for developing plans for success. The lowest performing schools would face changes such as replacing teachers and the principal or being closed.

The administration sent its general ideas to Congress in what it called "A Blueprint for Reform" to develop the next education law. Ann Bryant is executive director of the National School Boards Association. Her group worked with the Department of Education on the plan. She says it is a good start but still needs work. For example:

ANNE BRYANT: "There is no research that says that if you fire the principal you're going to get better results. There's no research that says if you fire half the faculty you're going to get good results. There is very little research that [says] that chartering or bringing in an outside management company may get you better results. And there is zero research that says closing the school necessarily helps those children."

The plan would reward effective schools and teachers with money and other recognition. But leaders of the nation's largest teachers unions criticized the administration's "blueprint."

Dennis Van Roekel of the National Education Association said it "still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers." He also expressed disappointment that states would have to compete for money.

Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers said the plan appears to place all the responsibility on teachers, but gives them "zero percent authority."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.