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NCLB Redux

Four ed secretaries discuss NCLB’s legacy at Education Nation.

A funny thing happened at the last session of NBC's Education Nation this year. Brian Williams sat onstage with four education secretaries: Richard Riley, Arne Duncan, Margaret Spellings, and Rod Paige.

"There's no shortage of things to talk about," he began. "It's hard to know where to begin." And then, for the bulk of the 20-minute session, all four looked backward and batted around No Child Left Behind, the law that's essentially there in name only these days.

Not surprisingly, Spellings and Paige ("I was involved in that," he said wryly) defended the law, while Riley and Duncan counterpunched. Paige called it "underappreciated," and Spellings said, "I wear it as a badge of honor."

Duncan gave the 10-year-old law credit for "shining the spotlight on the achievement gap," but quickly added that it was outdated and was improved by the vouchers his department has handed out to the majority of states. 

That's where the debate really could have gotten interesting, but apparently manners kept the panelists from hashing out differences on the waivers and Race to the Top.

Spellings came the closest to lighting a fire when she called the waivers a way to "put the genie back in the bottle and make accountability go away." Pretty soon all four were on to agreeing about the Common Core. Call it a draw.

—Late Fall 2012—

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