NCLB needs a course change

Earlier this week, at an event marking the release of the new Koret Task Force volume, Within Our Reach: How America Can Educate Every Child, a key House Education Committee staff member made it clear - let us say, made it sharply clear - that No Child Left Behind would not, repeat not, be opened up to legislative tinkering before its regular reauthorization date in 2007. (Memo to the administration and its allies on the Hill: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and denigrating your longtime friends and supporters in public is not as smart or effective as you think.) We certainly understand the administration's fear: Rewriting portions of the law runs the risk of having it gutted on Capitol Hill as unions, states, and assorted malcontents put pressure upon elected officials. But with states in open rebellion, departments being fined for non-compliance, and major editorial pages all over the map about the future of NCLB, we have to wonder if that risk might be preferable to the chaos of the past several weeks. We have no truck with states' whining about NCLB. But states do have one justifiable complaint: that the new "flexibility" scheme is arbitrary and cumbersome. Will someone please explain why this approach is preferable to an open, transparent, and definitive floor fight over what we mean by, and how we get to, leaving no child behind?

"Schools are states' domain," by Margaret Dayton and Paul Harrington, USA Today, April 18, 2005

"Buckle down on No Child Left Behind," by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Hartford Courant, April 22, 2005

"Stand firm for educational fairness," New York Times, April 22, 2005

"Spellings test," Washington Post, April 23, 2005

"Some students left behind," Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2005 (subscription required)

"Why we'll mend it, not end it," by Diane Ravitch, Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2005 (subscription required)

"Late test results prompt TEA fine," by Justin Gest, Houston Chronicle, April 26, 2005

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