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Article of Interest - NCLBA

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Bridges4Kids LogoNo Child Left Behind Leaves No Loopholes
by Normal Lockman, The Delaware News Journal, August 13, 2003
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If little Delaware is in a dither over the impact of the federal No Child Left Behind law, you can imagine what is about to happen in the rest of the country.

Delaware is a decade into serious school reforms with high- stakes accountability for students, teachers and schools. Some good things are beginning to happen. You can imagine the consternation then when only two of the state's 19 school districts managed a "superior" rating, none rated "commendable," and all the rest are now under "academic review," which puts them under the gun for two years.

Of course, there was an immediate caterwauling from school officials that the federal standards are unfair: another right-wing conspiracy to destroy the public school system with vouchers and charter schools. (Never mind that charter schools are public schools without the usual bureaucratic baggage.) This is a cry that will ring from coast to coast -- and it is phony.

This collision of new federal standards and local schools is not really about students. It is about how American schools are run and who will pay the piper if they are not run well. Up to now, it has been the kids who paid when schools were run poorly. They were shuffled along until they had put in enough time and then schools clapped mortarboards on their heads and declared them graduates, educated or not. A lot of people -- including parents -- got to like that. It was no-fault schooling.

Bad habits

No Child Left Behind is grounded in a blinding array of statistical analyses that rate schools and districts. Don't get too caught up in them. The main purpose of the law is to break the easy habit of rating schools by their best students rather than their worst.

It is important to remember that a large and powerful contingent of American parents are happy with their children's schools because those schools are meeting their needs. They are not anxious to see meddling with a system that benefits their children on behalf of slacker parents and kids. Educators have zeroed in on this group as allies to fight the "unfair" reforms.

In truth, there is nothing unfair about a system that stops school officials from riding the coattails of smarter kids (and inflating their grades) while writing off the slower ones. And there is nothing unfair about a system that reveals what has been called excellent academic performance for years is actually barely OK.

There was a gasp of horror when only three Delaware high schools measured up to federal standards. Actually it's a good thing because it strips the complacency from some smug suburban high schools that have been preening for those premium parents.

No Child Left Behind is a double whammy. It leaves no shelter for those who prefer to accentuate the positive while disowning the negative as something totally beyond their control. No Child Left Behind says that if the kid makes it to school, the school is ultimately responsible for that child's proper education no matter what. That's as it should be.

Codified into law, this is a radical concept. Not all that many educators truly believe in it. That is why some states are cravenly lowering standards to protect their school officials from federal embarrassment. Delaware has refused to take such a dive.

Do not be fooled. It is not unfair to rate schools by their worst instead of their best. This means more kids will get a better education and fewer school administrators will be able to bamboozle themselves and the public that they are doing a fine job by teaching the easily taught.  


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