Despite its flaws, an increased focus on achievement among students with disabilities was one positive outcome of No Child Left Behind, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told members of Congress Wednesday.

In testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Duncan said that for all of its shortcomings, No Child Left Behind did bring needed attention to children with special needs and students in other high-risk groups.

“There is a lot of dissatisfaction with NCLB,” Duncan said, adding that the law needs to be fixed to be more “fair and flexible.”

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Nonetheless, he continued, “NCLB was right to shine a bright light on achievement gaps and set a clear expectation that all students must learn to the same standards. This has led to great progress in schools focusing more on the needs of English learners and students with disabilities and other at-risk students.”

Duncan’s comments come as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — currently known as No Child Left Behind — a process that will likely begin in the coming months.

At present, Congress is working to finalize the federal budget for the current year and is weighing the president’s recent 2012 funding request, which called for increased education spending, a point of contention for many Republicans.

“Despite the near tripling of overall per pupil funding since 1965, national academic performance has not improved,” said committee chair Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. He urged Duncan to do more to minimize duplication of programs within the nation’s education system.