When Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind law in 2001, it aimed to identify poor-performing schools and force them to improve or face consequences, including letting students transfer to better schools. But now the question might well be, “Who’s going to be left?”
A stunning 82 percent of the nation’s public schools this year could fail to meet educational goals set by the law, according to estimates that Education Secretary Arne Duncan presented to Congress. He calls it a “slow-moving train wreck” and is formulating his own backup plan.
This should be a wake-up call for Congress, which has yet to tackle a request by President Barack Obama to overhaul the law by fall.
To be fair, Congress has been operating under projections that showed 37 percent of schools were set to miss proficiency requirements.
One fix to the law is obvious: No Child Left Behind dictates that every child, 100 percent, be proficient in math and reading by 2014. That’s unrealistic. But schools that fall short face a series of steps to help them improve, including tutoring for students or replacing the staff.
With the majority of the nation’s schools about to be labeled as broken, Congress should respond with a revision that preserves the law’s goals but does so within the realm of the possible.
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch (July 21)