[Susan notes: Wasteful spending is an issue that the community can understand.]
Published in Daily Southtown (Tinley Park, IL)
The flaws cited in the recent editorial "21 'failing' schools now called 'passing'" are but the tip of the iceberg of problems with No Child Left Behind. Verifying compliance saps the time of administrators and teachers from district headquarters to the smallest elementary school. The so-called remedy of school choice diverts resources from educating children to reassigning and transporting them to other schools.
It is not clear that student transfers or school takeovers are effective at improving student achievement. Numerous studies have shown that at-risk children have better outcomes at small neighborhood schools. When given the opportunity to move their children from a "failing" school to a "choice" school, parents frequently reject it. Educational researchers would applaud them for doing the right thing for their children by keeping them in the environment that is most likely to meet their educational needs.
Schools serving at-risk children typically have more NCLB sub-groups and lower test scores on average. It is a reality of statistical variation that these schools are more likely to be labeled as “failing,” and administrators may feel compelled by NCLB to close such schools preemptively to avoid this. The irony is that many of these schools are succeeding with the children they serve. On average, their educational outcomes decline after transfer to larger schools, but when the effect is averaged over a larger school population with higher average test scores, it is unlikely to raise the "failing school" red flag.
Tutoring is the intervention prescribed by NCLB that is most likely to succeed. Imagine the positive results if resources spent on compliance and on ineffective interventions were directed to tutoring at-risk children. Sadly, the law as currently implemented results in wasteful spending and encourages parents, educators, and communities to make choices that fail our children.