Randi Weingarten, the new president of the American Federation of Teachers, called this week for overhauling No Child Left Behind, saying the education law "has outlived whatever usefulness it ever had" and that "it is too badly broken to be fixed." Weingarten's sharp attack on NCLB puts her at odds with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who in her last six months on the job continues to defend NCLB. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with business leaders in Washington, Spellings said she "vigorously disagreed" with Weingarten and expressed hope that a new administration won't abandon the law's goal of having every child read and do math at grade level by 2014. "We need more NCLB, not less," Spellings said during her remarks to the Business Roundtable group, which on the same day released a report expressing alarm about the stagnant number of U.S. scientists and engineers.
The education czar urged business leaders to resist the "lofty rhetoric" of the presidential candidates and other elected officials who may be trying to undermine the law's core principles of accountability and transparency. (The country's two biggest teachers' unions have said they don't oppose accountability but resent the punitive nature of NCLB and want other measures besides testing to gauge student learning.) Spellings credited the business community for its efforts to promote math and science education, though she took some indirect criticism because the federal government has not made good on its promise to fully fund the America COMPETES Act, which was passed three years ago and calls for more emphasis on preparing students and teachers in math and science.