Stay on board: School board is right to back NCLB, ask for changes
Bad news for those who think salvation will come from any kind of bureaucrats or politicos. We at the grassroots--teachers and parents--need to take back our schools ourselves. Alas, most parents don't know what's going on and most teachers are just sitting, hoping it will go away.
It's probably pragmatism that has prompted State School Superintendent Patti Harrington and the State Board of Education to surprise some Utahns by backing the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind education-reform act.
Although state legislators have threatened to tell the federal Department of Education to take its rules and its $76 million for low-income students back to Washington and leave Utah to run its schools on its own terms, the reality is Utah can't afford to be so rebellious.
Instead of openly resisting NCLB's requirements, the board instead has wisely decided to offer suggestions for changes in the law to make it more palatable. As Harrington said, "There are political realities to consider."
Indeed, there seems little hope the law would not be reauthorized by a Republican Congress next year. So Utah stands to gain nothing by threatening to boycott its requirements, some of which, including one to force all teachers, even those in tiny rural schools, to have college degrees or special training in every subject they teach, make no sense for some Utah schools.
Moreover, the school board rightly supports some NCLB provisions. To be more specific, the board supports two NCLB provisions: one that requires all states to adopt their own accountability plans and another that requires states to report results of testing, graduation rates and attendance, broken down into groups by ethnicity, race, income, disability and English-language proficiency.
Utah should strictly adhere to the second of these. All reports, including those to the public, should disaggregate scores so current low achievement by racial and ethnic groups can be acknowledged and addressed.
Judging by the federal Department of Education's past reactions to requests for changes to NCLB, the chances of Utah getting adjustments it wants, especially its request that the feds pay for full-day kindergarten and universal preschool, are of two varieties: slim and none.
Still, it's better to be on record supporting positive changes in a reauthorized NCLB than to stand out as one of the states where the law is simply deemed ridiculous and unattainable, even if parts of it are.
Salt Lake Tribune
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES