Saying the United States is "falling behind" in education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan worked Wednesday to persuade lawmakers that the Obama administration's plan to rewrite a federal education law is the right move for the nation's students and schools.
"A generation ago, we led the world, but we're falling behind. The global achievement gap is growing," he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"If we're serious about preparing our nation's young people to compete in a global economy, we must, we must do better than this."
The Obama administration released Saturday its wide-ranging plan for overhauling the No Child Left Behind education law. It shifts the focus from singling out under-performing schools to fostering a "race to the top" to reward successful reforms. The proposed revisions promise that low-performing schools that fail to improve will be asked to show "dramatic change," but states and school districts will be held accountable for those shortcomings as well.
It supports the expansion of public charter schools and calls for giving states and school districts additional flexibility in how they spend federal dollars "as long as they are continuing to focus on what matters most - improving outcomes for students." And it allows them to use federal grant funds to change the way teachers and principals are paid "to provide differentiated compensations and career advancement opportunities to educators who are effective in increasing student academic achievement," among other considerations.