Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fixing No Child Left Behind

This WSJ editorial has both praise and criticism for the administration's proposals regarding renewing NCLB:
The Obama Administration wants to revise the No Child Left Behind education law, which is understandable because the law has flaws. But it's too bad many of the proposed fixes would weaken the statute and undermine the Administration's twin goal of raising state education standards.
Some of the White House proposals make sense, such as the push for more charter schools that can focus on the specific needs of their student populations by operating outside of collective bargaining agreements. We also like using student test scores to measure an instructor's effectiveness and influence teacher pay. Both reforms are strongly opposed by the teachers unions, and Team Obama deserves credit for putting children ahead of the National Education Association.
Other parts of its proposal leave us scratching our heads. The Administration wants to junk NCLB's requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 and replace it with an equally unrealistic goal of making all kids "college ready" by 2020. By this thinking, it's impossible to teach every kid to read at grade level within the next three years, but getting all of them ready for higher education six years later is doable.
The worst parts of the proposal diminish or eliminate NCLB's accountability and choice provisions. Poor kids in persistently failing schools would lose their access to free private tutoring and the option to transfer to another school. It's true these provisions were poorly enforced by the Bush Administration, but that's an argument for better enforcement, not axing the only part of the law that allows a role for private competition.
We're glad to see the Administration would maintain annual math and reading tests in grades 3 through 8, and that school districts would continue to disaggregate results by race and other factors to prevent schools from hiding achievement gaps. But the proposal would also allow for less rigorous and more subjective assessments—such as how "creative" a child is—to measure student progress, which could easily become an accountability loophole.
MARCH 23, 2010
Fixing No Child Left Behind
A reform pudding without a theme.

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