No Child Left Behind
Education: The news out of Washington is that the No Child Left Behind law is the next Obama target. One of the changes in the proposed legislation is a different measurement standard for ranking schools. The intention of the new proposal is to use a value-added measure to rank schools in terms of their effectiveness. In other words, the schools simply have to prove that by the time students finish one year of instruction, they have added something to what they knew and could do when they entered school. The tests, which teachers don’t appreciate, are evidently still being locked in place with math and reading tests being given in the fall and spring. But now, instead of meeting grade level standard scores on the tests, students simply have to show some degree of improvement. That degree level was not spelled out in the pretty proposal brochure. Additionally, other categories were added to the indicators of school success such as pupil attendance, graduation rates, and learning climate. The proposal also indicates that if schools perform well, there will be less federal interference in those schools—this could easily equate to less federal dollars, so good schools beware!
The article goes on to suggest that good schools will be rewarded; however, how and what the rewards will be is ambiguous. The proposal also abolishes per pupil funds to schools, offering a grant seeking approach for getting federal dollars. Once again—good schools beware—it is probably a necessity to prove that you are serving students who are not doing well to get the funds, so even if your state gets a grant, if your students are doing well, you might have some difficulty qualifying for a school or district grant. Finally, the new law removes the requirement that all students must score at a proficiency level in math and reading before they can graduate. Under the new law, students have to prove that they meet some ambiguous standard of being career and college ready. Of course, those standards were not identified and could be interpreted quite differently. Rather than adopting nationwide career and college standards, the President calls “on all states to develop and adopt standards in English language arts and mathematics that build toward college- and career-readiness by the time students graduate from high school.”
Bottom line—the changes to the law do not address the major problem in our education system—our kids are not learning as much as kids from other countries, and we are spending more. The major impact of this law, as I see it, is that we are increasing what we spend on education, but now, we will be potentially spending less on those who demonstrate that they can and do want to learn! While I am a strong advocate for equal opportunity, I am aware that there are factors other than instruction that play major roles in student success—maybe, we should identify standards and increase our requirements and rewards for responsible parenting and neighborhood efforts on behalf of child safety and support for education!