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Clinton on Differentiated Consequences

By Alyson Klein — March 19, 2008 1 min read
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Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., yesterday released a statement that amounted to a back-handed compliment of the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to allow up to 10 states to use “differentiated consequences” in implementing the No Child Left Behind Act.

“While a small pilot, this is a long overdue step in the right direction. By allowing states to differentiate between schools that need modest improvements and those that are chronically failing, this pilot will provide some much-needed flexibility,” Clinton said in the March 18 statement. “This step, however, should be just the beginning. No Child Left Behind is a failed policy that needs fundamental overhaul - not tinkering around the edges.”

There’s broad support in Congress for differentiated consequences, which would permit districts and states to use separate sets of sanctions for schools that missed the law’s achievement targets for most of their students, as opposed to those that failed to make progress with one or two subgroups, such as students in special education. Clinton’s support of the proposal isn’t a surprise.

What’s more intriguing is that Democratic presidential candidate’s statement on the pilot takes her recent anti-NCLB rhetoric up a notch. She says:

“As president, I will work with Congress to end the No Child Left Behind Act, and put in its place a more sensible law that stops micromanaging our schools from the federal level and provides real support to struggling schools.”

But it’s still unclear just how Clinton (or the other presidential candidates) would revamp the law. Would we still have an NCLB-like federally driven accountability system, just with a different name? NCLB is a reauthorization of the decades-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I find it difficult to imagine that any president would completely scrap that law.

Still, if nothing else, the statement shows that Clinton (or someone in her campaign) is paying attention to the implementation of NCLB. That’s probably a good political move, given that the National Education Association’s endorsement is still up for grabs.