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NCLB Outrages

Parents Take Schools to Task

Ohanian Comment: It's not surprising that with the blaring headlines every day about failing schools that parents' confidence slips. The media--and parents--interpret this as "failing." 32% of schools are now labeled "in need of improvement." Here in Vermont, we figure we'll have 100% in that category within a couple of years.

As a little sidenote, while looking around the ETS website, I participated in an online focus session--and noticed that they misspelled "Vermont" as "Vermount."

I want to see exactly how the ETS question was worded. Does anyone think the results would be the same if, say, the NEA conducted a similar survey?

So far, ETS has not posted any news about the survey on their site and as of 11 a.m., have not answered my request for a copy of the question. One can only wonder if they asked parents about their own children's schools or schools in general. For years, the PDK/Gallup polls have shown that parents like the school their children attend but think the rest aren't so good.

As to NCLB being a campaign issue, how can Kerry hammer away at anything beside the money provision of NCLB? He, like all those other weasel Democrats, voted for it.

Rant. Rant.

It's too soon to tell whether President Bush's sweeping school reform law will improve the nation's public education system, but nearly 2 years after Bush signed No Child Left Behind, a new survey shows that public perceptions of schools are changing sometimes for the worse and that education could be a powerful election-year issue.

In the survey released today by the Educational Testing Service, the world's largest private educational research organization, the nation's public schools take a bit of a beating at the hands of parents, while the general public remains largely unmoved.

The percentage of parents who give U.S. public schools a grade of A has dropped from 8% in 2001 to 2% today, and only 20% of parents give schools a B, down from 35%. Meanwhile, 45% of parents give schools a C, up from 33% in 2001.

Congress approved No Child Left Behind in 2001; Bush signed it in January 2002. The centerpiece of Bush's education agenda, it imposes strict testing requirements on public schools and demands that the number of students whose test scores show they can read and do math at grade level improve each year. If schools don't pass muster, they risk being labeled "in need of improvement."

About 32% of schools now fall into that category.

According to the new survey, public schools actually rose slightly in the eyes of adults in general since 2001; a few more adults gave schools a B and fewer gave them a C. The percentage who gave schools a D or F was unchanged. As in 2001, only 2% now give schools an A.

The survey also found that the public is split evenly on the merits of the law: 39% have a favorable opinion, 38% unfavorable.

That suggests both Bush and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry could benefit from campaigning on or against the law, says Les Francis, a testing service spokesman.

"The president can clearly take credit, in political terms, for having really pushed this issue further on to the national agenda and to have his bill identified with reform," he says.

For Kerry's purposes, he says, "the fact that there's a significant level of disenchantment" with the law gives Kerry a chance to "hammer away."

The favorable/unfavorable figures hold steady across political affiliations and even within battleground states, Francis says.

Passing marks? American adults' view of the quality of the nation's schools has changed very little over the past few years.

Percentage in 2004 who give the nation's schools:

A: 2%
B: 20%
C: 47%
D: 15%
F: 4%
Avg. GPA: 2.2

Source: Educational Testing Service

— Greg Toppo
USA Today


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