President Obama’s aggressive push for education reform has been one of his few domestic success stories, so it’s not surprising that he’s decided to build on that with a 6.2 percent increase in federal education spending next year. During his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama will specify that the new money will be targeted to expand college access, adult education, K–12 reform, and early learning, administration officials said. Part of the money will be used to encourage states to work together to develop higher national standards, which in turn will be used to encourage states and local school districts to develop more ambitious expectations and curricula for students and more meaningful tests. The money is also expected to help revamp former president George W. Bush’s hallmark education program, No Child Left Behind, which has come under considerable criticism since its introduction because of its emphasis on testing and its unfunded mandates. Obama is expected to maintain and even expand the emphasis on data collection but is seeking to offer school districts more flexibility in how the program is implemented. Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, became very familiar with school districts’ complaints about NCLB while superintendent of Chicago’s schools.
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