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Federal education mandates: One size doesn't fit all

Ohanian Comment: It is heartening to see editorialists pointing out what's right about their educational system.

Editorial

Nebraska could lose federal funding if it doesn't improve compliance with teacher quality standards under the No Child Left Behind law, but it must be doing something right.

Under that law, states were supposed to have highly qualified teachers in every core academic class by the end of the last school year.

After no states made it, the U.S. Department of Education demanded new state plans, including details on how states would improve the situation and make things more fair for poor and minority children.

Many states still didn't comply, but 100 percent compliance is the goal by the end of this school year.

Don't hold your breath for Nebraska to do so.

It's among seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that could lose federal aid if they don't get their acts together.

So what's the good news?

Despite the No Child Left Behind troubles, Nebraska ranks first among states where 70 percent or more of its high school graduates took the ACT college entrance exam.

Three of every four Nebraska graduates took the ACT, scoring an average of 21.9, compared to the average national score of 21.1.

Overall, Nebraska ranked 12th nationally and tied with two other states, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

"Not only is participation steady or increasing among all student groups, the scores for most groups improved," said Pat Roschewski, administrator for state assessment. "We still have work to do and will continue to encourage and support students in their achievement. We strongly recommend that Nebraska parents and educators help students make wise decisions about the courses they take in high school. Enrolling in the core classes is very important to their overall academic success."

That tactic seems to work, with Nebraska high school seniors who complete college-prep classes scoring higher than other students who don't.

According to ACT results, 76 percent of Nebraska students will do well in college English compared to 69 percent nationally, 48 percent in math compared to 42 percent nationally and 59 percent in social sciences compared to 53 percent nationally.

The average Nebraska teacher has a base pay of more than $38,000, which is far down the list in national averages, but a figure many of their Cornhusker peers would be glad to enter on their 1040, especially after extra duty pay is added.

Judging from the results, Nebraska taxpayers are getting good results from their investment.

However, it's easy for someone in Washington to mandate that every teacher be completely qualified in every class they teach, but that doesn't take into account the small pool of teachers and relatively low salaries Nebraska administrators have to work with.

No Child Left Behind is another example of how one size doesn't fit all.

— Editorial
McCook Daily Gazette
2006-08-18


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