Time to rethink No Child Left Behind

September 3, 2009

By Contributor

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When No Child Left Behind was passed into law, the plan was simple — make sure every student in America gets a good education by holding school districts to ever-tougher standards.
But in practice, No Child Left Behind has not delivered, and has caused more trouble than it’s worth. As a result, Issaquah and Renton district schools may pay a high price for it a few years down the road.
In many ways, the program has succeeded. By highlighting problems that hadn’t before been quantified, it has allowed schools across the country to better focus their resources.But the law’s end goal — that 100 percent of America’s students graduate with a set of basic skills and can pass a test to prove it — is unrealistic.
It doesn’t require a degree in statistics to understand that if everyone passes a test, all it really means is the test is too easy to be an adequate measure of skills. No test should expect all students to pass, without regard to their ability to learn.
Washington is starting to have that realization now. Although WASL test scores released recently are good and essentially as high as they were last year, more and more schools are considered failing. If current trends hold, just about every school in the country will be failing within a few years, even if the pass rate is in the high 90’s.
Perhaps as soon as next year, Congress will discuss whether to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. We hope it will address the flaws in the current law while still working to improve the education system. Standards should be high, but not unrealistic.
When No Child Left Behind was passed into law, the plan was simple — make sure every student in America gets a good
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education by holding school districts to ever-tougher standards.

But in practice, No Child Left Behind has not delivered, and has caused more trouble than it’s worth. As a result, Issaquah and Renton district schools may pay a high price for it a few years down the road.
In many ways, the program has succeeded. By highlighting problems that hadn’t before been quantified, it has allowed schools across the country to better focus their resources.But the law’s end goal — that 100 percent of America’s students graduate with a set of basic skills and can pass a test to prove it — is unrealistic.
It doesn’t require a degree in statistics to understand that if everyone passes a test, all it really means is the test is too easy to be an adequate measure of skills. No test should expect all students to pass, without regard to their ability to learn.
Washington is starting to have that realization now. Although WASL test scores released recently are good and essentially as high as they were last year, more and more schools are considered failing. If current trends hold, just about every school in the country will be failing within a few years, even if the pass rate is in the high 90’s.
Perhaps as soon as next year, Congress will discuss whether to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. We hope it will address the flaws in the current law while still working to improve the education system. Standards should be high, but not unrealistic.
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