By Grace Rubenstein
For a law with such a right-sounding name, No Child Left Behind has sure stirred up a lot of cries of injustice: It labels my child's good school as failing! It encourages states to mislead our kids into thinking they're succeeding! The Obama administration's new Blueprint for Reform promises to make the long-overdue fixes. Below, you'll find a quick snapshot of what may improve-and what may not-under the new proposal.
The upsides: The new education plan would keep one of the essential goals of NCLB: to close achievement gaps between children of different races, income levels, and disability statuses. This means that schools will continue to have to account for how each child (and each group) is doing. No hiding behind averages! The new proposal would also force states to set the standard for high school graduation as “college and career ready.” Now, states set their own proficiency measures. As a result, some actually lowered their standards of achievement. Finally, the reform would give teachers credit where credit is due: They'll be held accountable—and rewarded—for how much individual kids improve each year. Today student growth is measured by comparing the current class, say of third-graders, to last year's, a completely different set of kids.
The downsides: The new proposal would still reserve heavy consequences for the most chronically lagging schools. While it's an improvement that the harshest punishment will be imposed on only the bottom 5 percent of schools (many now get slammed on technicalities), critics say the rest need incentives to keep improving, too. So far, the plan has only a few, including additional funding and flexibility for the top 10 percent of schools. Also disappointing: The blueprint is frustratingly vague on how it will improve assessment tests. An accountability system is only as good as its tests, and many of the ones we have now are pretty inadequate.
The prospects: Now it's up to Congress—and you. Legislators will hammer out the details this year, so it's a great time to get involved. Sign up for Mom Congress at Parenting.com/momcongress for the latest news. Join this month and you could win a new Flip MinoHD video camera, worth $230! To learn more about the blueprint, visit Ed.gov to read the full proposal; then rally with your local PTA to make sure your representatives know exactly what your kids need to succeed.
Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Parenting School Years.