Fixing No Child Left Behind

When Congress convenes one of the things it will have to address is the much postponed revision of the Elementary and Secondary School Act (No Child Left Behind).

I have mixed feeling about No Child.  There are several positive notes in the legislation.  First, who can argue with the objective that any child should be left behind?  Second, districts have to dis-aggregate graduation rate data by ethnicity, special education, and economic levels.  This means that schools can no longer & “hide under the rug” the disparities in graduation rates between minority groups and their higher achieving groups.

But No Child was developed to produce a global American Education Standard and it has failed to do so.  A simple high-stakes assessment is indicative of nothing.  Imagine that you go to a doctor and she tells you based on a single test you are going to die an extremely painful prolonged death.  We would seek an additional doctor and request additional testing.

States control educational standards and some state standards are extremely low while others are much higher.  “Good” high performing schools are supposed to receive additional  funding under the current legislation while “poor” low performing schools are to be punished.  Isn’t that backwards?  Shouldn’t low performing schools be given additional resources (more funding, smaller classes and more teachers) to help them raise their achievement levels comparable to those higher performing schools?

Low performing schools are supposed to allow students to transfer out to higher performing schools.  Yet in many cities, the number who wish to transfer out exceeds the available space.

The new Congress and the new Secretary of Education will have a difficult job especially in light of the current national economic crisis.  We wish them well.  The future of America depends on their response.