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NCLB Outrages

Education Law Has Failed U.S.: Overhaul is Welcome

Bob Schaeffer Comment: An excellent editorial, except for the next-to-last paragraph, which is
a good reminder that even staunch allies in the campaign to replace NCLB
sometimes advocate replacement policies which could make matters worse
in terms of one-size-fits-all standards and tests:

If you want to be really depressed, read the public comments.


There's only one appropriate response to reports that President Barack
Obama is proposing to revamp the No Child Left Behind education law:

It's about time.

The federal law that has now judged more than a third of all schools as
"failing" -- with more schools added to the list every year -- is long
overdue for an overhaul.

Absurd expectations are part of the problem. The idea that every child
will be proficient and working at grade level every step of the way
through their K-12 schooling ignores the reality of children: They grow
and mature in fits and spurts and at wildly different rates. Some are
naturally gifted. Some, no matter how much one may wish otherwise, have
more limited skills. Great schools strive to help every child reach his
or her own potential, not merely a benchmark assigned by bureaucrats.

The current law also wastes resources. Entire schools or districts can
be declared "failing" if only one or two subgroups of students aren't up
to par on standardized tests. That's how Vacaville Unified School
District ended up in "Program Improvement." How many millions of dollars
have been wasted retooling entire schools or districts rather than
focusing efforts on the children who need the help?

And how ridiculous is it to judge an individual teacher or a particular
school on how well its students perform on a single standardized test
each year? All it takes is one good flu bug to wipe out a year's worth
of work.

That's not to say schools should not be held accountable or that testing
should be halted altogether. Certainly the focus on test scores has
pointed up disparities that must be addressed. But schools and teachers
should be rewarded for helping children to grow at a pace appropriate
for the individual child.

While the Obama administration has not released complete details of its
proposal, it seems to be heading in the right direction. Experienced
teachers should be encouraged to serve in schools that most need their
skills. If states are going to compete for federal education dollars,
then it makes sense to develop a single set of national standards,
rather than allowing each state to set its own bar as high or low as it
wants. And establishing a goal of graduating students who are ready for
careers as well as college signals a welcome return of vocational
education to the public school system.

No Child Left Behind is a fine slogan and a lofty goal, but it's been
bad public policy for too long. It's time to overhaul this failed program.


The Vacaville (CA) Reporte


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