"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choice Editorial from Jacksonville, NC

Too bad the NY Times or the Washington Post don't have the guts or insight of Jacksonville, NC's JD News:
It’s time to leave‘No Child’ behind
July 26, 2008 - 12:16AM

No Child Left Behind, the massive education program enacted by U.S. Congress in 2001, is one of those well-intended initiatives that has turned into a train wreck. It is time to admit that it simply doesn't work.

Onslow County Schools, like many other educational systems, have struggled with the stringent goals set by NCLB since its inception. In addition to what, on paper, appears an admirable objective - to improve the performance of the nation's public schools - NCLB has probably done less to foster actual learning and more to tie teachers' hands than any program before it.

Once criticized for "teaching to the tests," educators have now been saddled with goals that are next to impossible to reach and draconian sanctions that are supposed to raise the quality of instruction. Instead, NCLB has sent many excellent teachers scrambling for the door.

At a time when educators' salaries are losing ground along with the rest of America, why would anyone want to enforce a provision that does little but drive good teachers from the profession? It makes no sense, but that is what is happening.

The rural, lower-wealth counties and inner-city schools can barely keep enough teachers on staff to meet their needs, yet NCLB, which purports to raise the qualifications of those who teach, discourages the ones they do have, forcing many fine teachers to rethink their personal career objectives.

Although NCLB is designed to raise the reading and writing levels of America's children and provide measurable means of testing those abilities, what it is really doing is forcing teachers to "teach to the test" with a whole new desperation. The Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, goals that schools are required to meet are often impossible, turning the process into a shell game played between school and program administrators.

Recently, Onslow County's latest AYP report card revealed Onslow did not do very well in its latest assessment. Overall, the number of schools meeting their AYP goals in the county declined.

What does that mean in terms of students actually learning something useful? How do parents make any sense of these numbers? They are the forgotten component of the NCLB Act.

In truth, the only provision of NCLB designed to benefit parents and students allows those at low-performing schools to move to other schools in the district.

No matter which candidate carries the day in November, it is hoped he will take seriously the business of teaching, limit Congress' input into education and, finally, kick the NCLB Act to the curb.

It's an expensive, complicated program that delivers little but red tape and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, something the American people already have in abundance.

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