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NCLB Outrages

No Retreat From No Child

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Heads swiveled when Democratic Rep. George Miller spoke last week to the National Press Club about his priorities for the No Child Left Behind Act. Congress is trying to renew the blockbuster education bill this year, and Mr. Miller's views count because the Californian heads the House's education committee. He also was a principal author of the bipartisan legislation back in 2001.

The headline from Mr. Miller's speech is that he wants to keep holding schools accountable while finding new ways to measure their work. In education-speak, "multiple measures" usually means relying upon something more than a state's achievement exam, like the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

As a newspaper that championed No Child's creation, and has firmly supported Texas' respected accountability system, we're open to other measurements of schools. That could mean considering how much growth a school adds to a child's learning abilities over a year.

We're taking this position because we realize No Child frustrates some teachers and parents. Congress should make the best accommodations to keep the law intact.

What we aren't open to is a retreat from accountability, or anything that would excuse schools whose kids aren't reading or doing math. For that reason, there should be no ditching of state exams. They must remain a big part of evaluating schools.

Congress also should resist giving schools a long list of alternatives to use to measure progress. The last thing that students need is for Washington to turn school accountability into the educational equivalent of mashed potatoes. If that happens, Washington will send students into the world unprepared for the realities of the modern economy.

In fact, because the nation needs to ready students for that economy, legislators must turn a special eye to high schools. Mr. Miller wants uniform, reliable ways of measuring graduation rates. That's one way No Child could improve high schools.

When it returns after Labor Day, we hope Congress strengthens this revolutionary law.

— Editorial
Dallas Morning News


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