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NCLB Outrages

Ed commissioner: No Child Left Behind creating distrust

This is the NCLB Good News: An education commissioner who stands up to the feds--and even with panache. And he's received support from people in nearly every state, people who tell him that Nebraska is doing what all states should do.

One error in this report: The retired teacher who declared Hug-a-Doug Day is none other than our cartoonist, Georgia Hedrick.

By JoAnne Young

The state education commissioner stood before more than 600 Nebraska educators Wednesday morning and introduced himself.

“Hello. I’m Doug Christensen and I’m not approved,” he said, referring to the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to deny approval of the state’s system of testing to satisfy federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

He’d completed the 12-step program for anger management, he joked, but now he’s enrolling again.

“In case you don’t know,” he said, “I have a huge problem with No Child Left Behind.”

Giving the opening remarks on the first day of the Administrators’ Days conference, Christensen said people in other states have thanked him for standing his ground on Nebraska’s unique system of allowing each school district to develop its own tests for achievement rather than developing a one-test-fits-all statewide exam.

After U.S. Education Department officials failed to approve the Nebraska system in early July, and Christensen challenged them, he got support from people in almost every state, he said. They told him they knew the Nebraska system is where all states should be, he said.

One retired teacher in Reno, Nev., wrote to say he had declared July 12 as “Hug-a-Doug Day.“

In its fourth year, it’s time for No Child Left Behind to live on its results, he said.

“It’s not doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “And it’s creating a huge distrust. ... It’s diminishing the work of classroom teachers. And it’s causing us to leave children behind.”

In many states, he said, by the time national tests are administered in 10th grade, 38 percent of students have already dropped out. But that doesn’t show in those test results.

If Nebraska doesn’t look good in such national tests, it’s because Nebraska doesn’t “cook the books,” he said.

“It’s turned into a beauty contest, in which it’s more important to look good than to be good,” he said.

“No Child Left Behind strategies are not going to get us where we want to go in terms of equity and achievement. ... Compliance has nothing to do with learning. Compliance is about following the rules.”

It has to make sense, he said. And what makes sense is commitment to equity and excellence.

The Nebraska system will be approved, he said, noting the issue isn’t about the quality of the state’s system, but rather whether it can document the quality on the federal government’s timeline of the end of the 2006-07 school year.

“We can do the documentation,” he said.

Lincoln Journal Star


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