Are students left behind?
The best we can hope for now is to thwart Kennedy/Miller and force a delay of reauthorization.
Teachers, do your part!
THE ON-AGAIN, off-again debate on immigration reform threatens to overshadow almost every other key legislative challenge in Washington, D.C. -- including just how involved the federal government should be in our schools.
Few Americans are aware that the most important piece of education legislation in decades -- the federal No Child Left Behind law, which went into effect in 2002 -- is up for "reauthorization" this year.
The Bush administration continues to insist that the law is "working," despite the lack of convincing evidence to support such claims.
This month, a report from the Center on Education Policy, an independent think tank, concluded that student scores on state tests have improved since the law went into effect -- which allowed President Bush to once again trumpet its virtues.
But the report repeatedly cautions that there is no way to know whether the test score improvements are related at all to the federal legislation. What's more, the findings were based on results from only 13 states -- and of those only 9 reported upward trends in test scores. More important, the results of the study were based on student performance on tests devised by individual states. The rigor of those tests varies tremendously from state to state.
In fact, a report issued this month by the U.S. Department of Education shows the absurdity of evaluating the success of the law by looking at how students perform on state tests. Students can be deemed "proficient" by how they did on these tests, but yet still lag far behind on more objective tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes referred to as "the nation's report card."
A growing number of people, from both sides of the political aisle, are having doubts about the law, as they should. This week, for example, Eugene Hickock, who was the second in command at the U.S. Department of Education during President Bush's first term, told the Washington Post that it is time to "see if there are other ways to solve the problem." Some 57 Republican lawmakers introduced legislation earlier this year that would allow states to "opt out" of the NCLB mandate. They join a number of Democrats opposed to the legislation for different reasons.
The best approach would be to postpone reauthorizing the law this year, and to leave it until 2009 to revisit the issue. By that time, there should be more data on which to make a decision on the law. We are still a long way from having solid evidence to justify inflicting well intended, but intrusive, federal legislation on our schools for another five years.
San Francisco Chronicle
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES