No Child impact is clear, but its success uncertain
Not long after implementation began of President Bush's cornerstone educational program, No Child Left Behind, some veteran educators privately were calling the sweeping reform package "No School Left Standing."
While it remains to be seen whether that sardonic nomenclature will prove warranted, there's no doubt that many educators aren't singing out of the same song book as the nation's lawmakers when it comes to school improvement. Regardless, the NCLB Act is moving toward a crashing crescendo with an abundance of sound and fury. Whether the end result will be progressive harmony or discordant noise remains the subject of noisy debate.
The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that some 1,750 of the nation's schools have failed to make necessary improvement over a five-year period as mandated by NCLB, and as a result are now subject to "restructuring."
Once schools are labeled as needing restructuring, they are subject to extreme measures of school reform that can result in mass terminations of school employees, the takeover of local schools by state officials, hiring an outside agency to operate schools, or other sweeping changes in operation and personnel.
Georgia is one of the states with the highest number of schools now labeled as needing to be restructured. With 85 schools in that category, Georgia joins California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania in comprising some 70 percent of the 1,750 total. The individual schools have not yet been identified.
While there is as yet little agreement on whether NCLB ultimately will be a blessing or a curse, there is agreement on the fact that the number of schools requiring restructuring is likely to escalate far beyond the total announced this week. A former Education Department official projected 10,000 schools eventually could be in need of restructuring.
Already there are reports of some schools intentionally providing inaccurate data in order to meet annual benchmarks for making progress so as to avoid being labeled as in need of attention and reform.
Beyond the issue of whether NCLB will eventually lead to better education nationwide is the question of how steadfast its political support in Washington will be with Bush's personal political clout diminishing as he heads toward the end of his second term in office. As more schools and school systems are required to undergo massive reforms, will Congress stand resolute on the foundation of Bush's educational reform, or will it begin to crack?
Regardless of its future viability, NCLB is a stern taskmaster for those schools pushed toward restructuring now, and for thousands more that will be in the years to come. That significant sweeping changes in public education are being made and will continue as a result of NCLB is not debatable; whether the change is for better or worse may not be obvious for generations.
Gainesville Times (Georgia)
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES