School Reform in Danger
Ohanian Comment: New York Times editorial must have been on vacation, that it has taken them so long to jump on this issue. As always, they're dead wrong about NCLB. The editorialist hasn't bothered to investigate the issue but repeats the boiler plate language, including rigorous.
This was supposed to be a landmark year for the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires the states to close the achievement gap between white and minority students in exchange for federal education dollars. By this year, states were to have put a highly qualified teacher in every classroom and created rigorous annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight.
The state tests and standards are still wildly uneven, and mediocre in many places. The teacher quality measures are also in jeopardy, with many states defining the problem away by simply labeling their teacher corps "highly qualified."
Congress must fix this. Lawmakers must also stop the charade of talking tough on education while pressuring behind the scenes for the Department of Education to be more lenient. The federal government should not allow localities to fix their data instead of their schools. The Associated Press recently found that school districts were deliberately failing to break out scores for nearly two million minority children — or about 1 in every 14 test scores over all — when they reported on the all-important issue of white vs. minority student progress.
The problem is a poorly written provision of the law that allows state educators to determine when a minority group at a given school is too small statistically to count as a separate group. A school that has, say, 500 students and only three or four minority children would be statistically justified in not breaking out minority student scores.
But the Associated Press found that the federal government had allowed about two dozen states to make exemption changes in recent years, so that some schools can now ignore racial breakdowns even when they have as many as 50 minority children. That's a big loophole.
Without accurate minority student scores, there is no way to know whether the schools are actually closing the achievement gap — which is what this law is all about. The Department of Education needs to revisit those ill-advised exemptions and Congress needs to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
New York Times
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES