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[Susan notes: The letter makes a great point, acknowledging under funding of NCLB but pointing out that this is not the main problem with the legislation. We must keep hitting hard on this.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
10/11/2004

To the editor

Your thinly disguised plea that we should continue to create and impose on all parents and all students a single, national, standardized, one-size- fits-all system of public education (editorial, How to Rescue Educational Reform, Oct 10) is not only educationally but politically unwise and dangerous.



Yes, the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act is seriously under-funded, but that is not its main problem. In its misguided attempt to set "high" academic standards and provide poor and minority students with greater educational opportunities, the law removes from all public school parents the democratic right to define and control the kind and quality of the education their children will receive in their public schools. While the American system of local control of public education is far from flawless, its greatest virtue has been that it reserves the decision making power to those closest to and therefore those most deeply concerned about the students themselves -- the parents, teachers adminstrators and local school boards of our individual local communities.



Our state and federal governments most certainly have a major role to play in providing adequate funding and other resources and making sure that all students -- and especially poor and minority students -- are treated fully and fairly. But in any truly democratic society, it cannot be the role of those governments to dictate to all parents and teachers what their students will be taught and how it will be taught.



Evans Clinchy, Institute for Responsive Education


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