John Kerry discusses No Child Left Behind in an interview with the Des Moines Register. He was asked how he’d change the law, which he voted for.
I’m mostly critical of the way the Bush administration has implemented it. It didn’t have to be implemented the way they’ve chosen to. The rigidity in the testing, the way they apply the adequate yearly progress standard, the unwillingness to fully fund it – I mean, all of these things have contributed to this incredible backlash against it, which is counterproductive to the education of our children. I was one of the 13 senators who helped, sort of marshal the forces to move towards No Child Left Behind and invested an enormous amount, I personally wrote the section on principals, on helping to gain skills and strengths as principals because that’s so critical for leadership of schools. And I also wrote the second-chance school part of it, so I’m invested in it, which is why I’ve been critical of the president, because I think he’s applied it in a very difficult way for schools where you have this one-size-fits-all testing, which doesn’t adequately reflect how education works and how you measure kids. And not funding it, is another unfunded mandate from the federal government and I’m not for unfunded mandates. It’s $28 billion short of where it ought to be. And that’s a huge amount of money. So I’m gonna fully fund it.
The Register asked if he’d remove the sanctions in the law, which hold schools that receive federal funds accountable for failure to make “adequate yearly progress.”
I’d change it . . . I think you have to have measurements. I don’t want it to be a punitive process. I want it to be an uplifting leveraging process, where you’re constructively working. Now you have to make it meaningful. You have to have accountability. You have to have measurements. You have to have standards. I wanted all those things. But how you apply them is the key. For instance, I’ll give you an example. Teachers who’ve taught 15, 20 years out of field – part of the goal is to have qualified teachers in every classroom, we want that. But we also want to make sure that somebody who’s taught brilliantly for 15 to 20 years isn’t denigrated by being sent back to be recertified when they’re doing a brilliant job. It destroys morale . . . You lose people from the system. We’re losing 30 to 40 percent of our new teachers in three or four years because of the way it works in the system today, so I think we’ve gotta be more constructive in that relationship and I will have a secretary of education who works constructively to lift our schools. We’re going to change the way we measure on the testing so that we measure adequately but don’t create a testing factory, I guess is the best way to describe it.
That’s what they call nuance, folks.