Kinder, Gentler NCLB?
Florida Education Commissioner John Winn has asked Washington for relief from rules that made so many Florida schools — even some getting A's and B's from the state — fail under the No Child Left Behind Act. Granted, Florida was asking for relief from dumb rules that the state imposed on itself. But never mind that right now.
In a moment of harmonic convergence, new U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says she will take a kinder, gentler approach to enforcing NCLB. That would be a complete reversal of her predecessor's insistence that only education sluggards wanted to revise NCLB. Mr. Winn and Ms. Spellings have provided us with a rare moment of NCLB sanity. Savor it.
OK, that's long enough. Much of NCLB still falls on the other side of sanity. For example, President Bush has hatched the idea of denying development grants to neighborhoods where schools are having trouble with NCLB. Why is that nuts? There is a straight line between poverty and poor schools. To help the schools, help the neighborhood. NCLB, under this proposal, is No Child Leaves Blight.
In addition, states get to set a lot of their own rules. Florida set unattainable goals — Gov. Bush showing support for President Bush — so Florida grades suffered. How long would it take for states to learn, as Florida is just catching on, that lower goals mean better grades and — under President Bush's plan — more redevelopment money? NCLB, supposedly a boon to educational standards, is in danger of setting off a race to the bottom.
Even Republican states are starting to see NCLB as federal meddling and complaining in public. Maybe those rare moments of sanity will become less rare.
Palm Beach Post
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES