Call me naïve, but I don’t think the primary purpose of No Child Left Behind was to shame public schools or pave the way for privatization. I believe — and this is just my opinion — that the law’s principal creators sincerely wanted to improve the education of disadvantaged children, and NCLB, flawed as it is, was the vehicle they came up with.
That said, it’s hard to imagine a more breathtaking illogicality than the law’s central premise: That all children, despite their considerable differences, could be taught to a single high standard and that all students would be “proficient” by 2014.
This quote from Arne Duncan’s recent Politico piece on the law is telling:
Despite our shared sentiment for reform and the Obama administration’s long-standing proposal to reshape NCLB, the law remains in place, four years after it was due for reauthorization. Our children get only one shot at an education. They cannot wait any longer for reform.
Read that carefully and you’ll notice the education secretary isn’t talking about reforming schools, but reforming reform. Our children get only one shot at an education, and they cannot wait any longer to reform the reform.
Duncan’s heart is in the right place. He knows the legislation is seriously flawed and has vowed to do, through regulatory reform, what Congress won’t address with legislation. But the Secretary isn’t going far enough — offering merely to be more “flexible” under the same assessment system. That begs the question: If the legislation is so horrendously flawed, shouldn’t there be a moratorium on schools labeled “failing” under that broken system?
That’s exactly what NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant argued last week in a commentary in the Huffington Post:
We need the regulatory relief this summer before school starts, instead of a new bureaucratic process that the Department of Education is purposing that could take many months to create. And as we need this as a matter of policy — not state or school district case-by-case waivers. We specifically support suspension of additional sanctions under current AYP requirements, effective for the 2011-12 school year, so that schools currently facing sanctions would remain frozen; no new schools would be labeled as ‘In Need of Improvement’ or subject to new or additional sanctions.
Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor