Time to Redo NCLB?

It couldn’t last, could it?

The Obama administration will seek changes to No Child Left Behind, says the New York Times. Among the changes is “the elimination of the law’s 2014 deadline for bringing every American child to academic proficiency.” And in a move that should make school officials everywhere rejoice, “Department of Education officials have said they also want to eliminate the school ratings system built on making ‘adequate yearly progress’ on student test scores.”

There’s some encouraging news in here: “Significantly, said those who have been briefed, the White House wants to change federal financing formulas so that a portion of the money is awarded based on academic progress, rather than by formulas that apportion money to districts according to their numbers of students, especially poor students.”

Not that the federal government ought to have a large role–or indeed, any role–in education. But if it is to have a role, providing financial incentives to schools that make progress is not a bad idea.

The provisions of the law offering students in specified schools to get tutoring help or the option to transfer to other schools are good, but they’ve not been used much. Why that is can be debated, but the point is they’ve had little impact.

What about ending the proficiency requirement? “A new goal, which would replace the 2014 universal proficiency deadline, would be for all students to leave high school ‘college or career ready.'”

That might be an improvement in that it recognizes that now all students will (or should) attend college.

Here’s another slight area of hope: “One section of the current Bush-era law has required states to certify that all teachers are highly qualified, based on their college coursework and state-issued credentials. In the Race to the Top competition, the administration has required participating states to develop the capability to evaluate teachers based on student test data, at least in part, and on whether teachers are successful in raising student achievement.”

Now, I think that school teachers, at least those in high school, ought to have more academic subject  preparation. But requiring, say, math teachers to have a math major, puts too much emphasis on credentials and not enough on performance in what counts–helping students learn.

The Times notes that the law has been widely unpopular, since in the views of many teachers and administrators, “it sets impossible goals for students and schools and humiliates students and educators when they fall short.”

The fact that a law “humiliates” the adults in the schools is the least bad feature. After all, should we operate schools for the benefit of students, or of school employees?

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