JEFFERSON CITY— U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is launching a 15-town tour around Missouri this week to meet with parents, teachers, students and school administrators about potential changes to the federal education law.
McCaskill is expected to kick off her events Monday in the eastern Missouri cities of Festus, St. Charles, Warrenton and Troy. She said the "roundtable discussions" are a way to gather opinions before an expected debate on reauthorizing the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The 2001 law expanded the federal government's role in education. It set goals for all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 and penalties for schools that failed to make adequate annual progress toward those standards.
Many school officials contend the standards are impossible to achieve, and some teachers and administrators have complained that some of the federal mandates have not been matched with enough federal money to carry them out.
McCaskill said the education law will need to be changed when Congress considers its reauthorization.
"This one-size-fits-all approach that was embraced under the umbrella of accountability is really one of the failures of No Child Left Behind," McCaskill said. "Every community is different and every child learns at a different pace. What it really did, I think, is squeeze creativity out of the classroom, because teachers began feeling enormous pressure to teach for the test."
McCaskill said she hopes to discuss whether schools have the resources they need, whether class sizes are appropriate, whether educators believe preschools are important, whether special-education students are getting the services they need and whether there are frustrations with the current federal law.
The participants in McCaskill's discussion panels were invited by her campaign and local education officials, and the events aren't intended as question-and-answer sessions for the general public. That's a different approach than McCaskill took two years ago when she held a series of public forums — which drew hundreds of people — to gather opinion in advance of a debate on a federal health care law. McCaskill ultimately voted for the health care law signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.