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NCLB Outrages

When 'pass' means 'fail'


Grading systems should be logical. Being rational isn't such a bad idea, either. The collision between Gov. Bush's A+ grading system and the federal No Child Left Behind scheme continues to produce an illogical, irrational pile of wreckage.

The problem, as critics have noted often, is that both grading systems are based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, but they come to ridiculously different conclusions. Sixty-two percent of state schools flunked or, more politely, "failed to make adequate yearly progress" under NCLB. But 37 percent of those "failing" schools did well enough to earn an A or B under Gov. Bush's rules. Talk about whiplash.

High-poverty schools that fail under NCLB can be required to take very expensive remedial steps, including hiring tutors and busing students to "better" schools. Gov. Bush and Florida Education Commissioner John Winn tried to paper over the silliness by inventing a new name "provisional" adequate progress and by asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive sanctions against A and B schools that flunk NCLB. Instead, the feds offered to let some, but not all, schools and students avoid penalties. Last week, Mr. Winn correctly rejected that strange offer.

Just a few bad scores can trigger failure under NCLB. Identifying such problems is good particularly if they are affecting a particular group of students but why "fail" the whole school? Meanwhile, Gov. Bush's grades ignore such basics as history courses and foreign language. Palm Beach Superintendent Art Johnson says, "It's always going to be a problem unless the two systems are aligned." Aligned, yes. But each also needs to be improved.

— Editorial
Palm Beach Post


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