Monday, November 08, 2004


No surprises here: the New Jersey Educational Aassociation opposes NCLB; the Republican Representative from their region supports it. Rep. James Saxton, however, admits that changes need to be made to allow teachers to have more flexibility. The fact that even Republicans are recognizing this only two years into the implementation of the Act is a very good sign.

And in that hotbed of liberal activism otherwise know as Wyoming, the Superintendent of Cheyenne, along with a school board member and a teacher, sent a letter to their congressional delegation challenging NCLB. Specifically, they worry that one provision which requires districts to earmark 10% of Title One money for staff development would force them to lay off teachers. Somehow they have the idea that laying off teachers is not the way to improve student performance. Obviously, they are misguided. (Note: I use sarcasm a lot.)

And here's an excellent editorial from an obviously liberal rag, the Roanoke Times:

We believe in setting accountability standards for public schools and sticking to them. Virginia's Standards of Learning, for example, have been useful tools for identifyingacademic achievement gaps among schools, with an eye toward closing the gaps - not closing the schools.

Then there is the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This landmark legislation of President George W. Bush's first term promised similar, lofty goals. But as it comes before Congress next year for reauthorization, the law is in obvious need of repair.

As Virginia's Gov. Mark Warner told a national education forum last week at the University of Virginia: "To have high standards without meaningful remediation programs is a recipe for failure."

The federal program is so inflexible and punitive, it leaves many educators wondering whether failure - of the public school system - isn't exactly what it was designed to achieve.

Officials sitting in Washington have mandated that all students will be proficient in
reading, writing and math by 2014. And schools that get federal Title I funding for low-income students face serious sanctions if they don't make Adequate Yearly Progress on 29 of 35 benchmarks for two years in a row.

Even schools that are improving dramatically by individual state standards are punished, though, if they don't meet these rigid federal goals. And differences among
student populations cannot be taken into account.

The idea is that no child will be left behind. But rigid benchmarks can be both unreachable and counterproductive. In California, where standardized tests must be given in English, one elementary school's student body is 90 percent Hispanic, the
children of very low-income migrant workers, for whom English is a second language.
How will sanctions - transferring students, firing teachers, losing federal money - help them?

Schools that don't fit the D.C. mold are threatening class-action lawsuits. Congress should avoid litigation, and put the money instead into remediation.


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