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Pioneer Editorial: Time to fix NCLB long overdue

Long overdue, President Barack Obama called upon Congress Monday to get to work in reforming educational standards -- something to replace the much maligned No Child Left Behind.

The president used a speech at a middle school to urge Congress to fix NCLB before the start of the next school year. His goal is for a program that will allow U.S. students to out-compete and out-educate the world in the 21st century economy.

The federal government must put in place education standards that incentivize achievement, not punish as does NCLB. In our zeal to do just that -- leave no child behind -- we have treated all students as one rather than as individuals who must be encouraged to progress at their own capabilities.

In brief, the president outlined the need for:

E A fair accountability system that shares responsibility for improvement and rewards excellence, and that is based on high standards and is informed by sophisticated assessments that measure individual student growth.

E A flexible system that empowers principals and teachers, and supports reform and innovation at the state and local level.

E A system focused on the schools and the students most at risk -- that targets resources to persistently low-performing schools and ensures the most effective teachers serve students most in need.

A system under which the overwhelming majority of schools will not meet NCLB's goals and the students most a risk won't get the help they need is not what we need. NCLB's one-size-fits-all mandates just don't work.

"We need to make sure we're graduating students who are ready for college and a career," President Obama said. "In the 21st century, it's not enough to leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead. We need to get every child on a path to academic excellence."

Congress has put off for far too long reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which contains NCLB. It has been nine years since NCLB was signed into law, more than enough time to know that it doesn't work without a major fix.

Congress needs to tackle the important issue of agreeing to a balanced budget and in trying to cut the federal deficit, but it must not forget important domestic policy that will shape how future Americans are taught and that they are able to compete in the global marketplace.