WHAT OTHERS SAY: It's time to admit failure with No Child Left Behind

Thursday, September 29, 2011 | 4:50 p.m. CDT; updated 5:13 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

When an experiment fails, it’s time to begin experimenting anew until a successful outcome is produced.

The federal education law titled No Child Left Behind — championed by President George W. Bush and enacted in 2001 — largely has failed.

President Barack Obama last week announced states may apply to the U.S. Department of Education to be exempted from some of the federal law’s provisions.

The exemption is not unconditional; states must enact standards to prepare students for college and careers, as well as accountability standards for teachers and administrators.

A number of states already have signaled they will seek exemptions. Missouri officials are studying their options.

We believe multiple state experiments in education are preferable to a single national mandate.

And we believe constitutional instructions support our belief.

The U.S. Constitution — as we have noted in the past — does not mention education. The nearest reference perhaps is the Preamble citation to “promote the general welfare.”

In contrast, education is a priority in Missouri’s constitution. Education is the subject of Article IX. The document also lists education as the legislature’s second priority for appropriations, after satisfying outstanding debts.

Developing workable education standards, admittedly, is a difficult task.

Students’ abilities and interests vary widely. And, despite teaching standards, instructors range from engaged to incompetent. Add diverse facilities, materials and curriculum to the mix, and it becomes readily apparent why an effective education standard is elusive.

We believe local standards devised by local school boards with input from local patrons offer the best opportunity to achieve educational excellence.

In Missouri, the state has created local public school districts to pursue that goal.

Obama’s exemption policy will challenge states to develop criteria that empower local school districts to excel.

The challenge is daunting, but Missouri will be remiss if it chooses to remain under the constraints of a flawed, one-size-fits-all federal mandate.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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James Krewson September 29, 2011 | 5:19 p.m.

Time to defund and shut down the Department of Education. It is a big waste of money.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks September 29, 2011 | 5:33 p.m.

Completely agree with Krewson. Its a shame Ol' Ted (I killed a lady) Kennedy was not still alive to see the end of his bill come around.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 29, 2011 | 8:26 p.m.

Corey: Yep, it's too bad Jefferson City doesn't know ol' Ted was the Senate leader pushing NCLB. It was mainly a collaborative Bush/Kennedy effort.

Guess it wasn't in their best political interest to say so in the article.

Also, no one ever mentions that NCLB was subject to modification over all these years since 2001. Lots of legislatures had the opportunity...from both sides. Jefferson City apparently doesn't want to acknowledge that fact, either.

What they DO want to point out is that it's all Bush's fault...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 29, 2011 | 8:31 p.m.

However, there is no bias in the media.

Nope. Not a bit.

PS: The Jefferson City newspaper's spokesman, Knott Bi-assed, stated, "Not mentioning important stuff isn't a bias. It's only a bias when you say it."

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield September 30, 2011 | 12:11 p.m.

"We believe local standards devised by local school boards with input from local patrons offer the best opportunity to achieve educational excellence. In Missouri, the state has created local public school districts to pursue that goal."

The KC and STL districts sure have done an impressive job of pursuing that goal. I'm not arguing that the feds are any better at education, but you're kidding yourself if you believe that the locals are more capable of fixing what ails K-12. In fact, they were doing such a great job of pursuing that goal that we got NCLB as a result.

(Report Comment)
Greg Allen September 30, 2011 | 3:51 p.m.

One of the main points of this and the Springfield opinion piece is that NCLB is unrealistic. The bell curve is a scientific staple. If all students were within one standard deviation of the mean in intelligence and ability -- and if schools and teachers likewise were all that close to average -- then NCLB would work. Maybe. But the bell curve extends farther than that.

If we're discussing the failure of implemented ideals, perhaps we could look at what effect the dirtying of 'liberal' has had on education. Used to be that a liberal education taught you a higher-order thinking process. If you eliminate that, what does it do to how we handle business, family life, international relations, community building, and conflict resolution?

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle September 30, 2011 | 4:39 p.m.

The corollary to No Child Left Behind is No Child Allowed to Get Ahead.

So far NCLB has been brilliantly effective at making it appear that the public school system is failing, so a voucher system can be implemented instead. Now that we have arrived at the precipice of this planned statistical failure, I'm happy to see people waking up and saying,

"Wait, what? ...Maybe the rule is wrong!"

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller October 5, 2011 | 11:10 a.m.

From its creation, I have been opposed to the Department of Education as I find no benefit in allowing the inefficient and clumsy intrusion of the federal government in our local schools.

Nevertheless, when one recognizes that the primary goal of No Child Left Behind is to ensure that children learn to read by the third grade, one has to wonder at the fierceness of the opposition. Back when I meandered through the trials of K-12, it was rare indeed that a child did not learn to read in the first grade. Lowering that standard of achievement to third grade level is hardly progress.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 5, 2011 | 11:40 a.m.

J Karl - As I recall, trials of Dick and Jane and "see spot run" were our first project at Benton School, Hinkson Ave. Some might say I didn't learn much.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller October 5, 2011 | 8:43 p.m.

Frank, I grew up with Dick, Jane, Baby Sally, Spot and Puff also. My Mother attended Benton School circa 1918 and was a member of Hickman's second graduating Class in 1929.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 5, 2011 | 9:28 p.m.

J Karl - I know your mother was a wonderful person, but thankfully, I didn't know her at Benton. When old men remember.. Benton and all the schools let kids out early one day for a scrap metal drive for the war effort (WW2) and we drug it in from everywhere. A group of us noticed a huge pile of scrap behind a heating concern on N 8th St. We dutifully asked if we could have the metal for the drive. I wish I had the name of the owners, for they, of course told us, "sure, take all you want!" We got our wagons and drug as much as we could, at least 10 blocks back to the S/W corner of Benton property proud of our accomplishment! It was, of course, corrugated metal, not suited for the war effort. Quite a lot of steel was recovered and duly picked up by those responsible. I noticed our war effort metal still laying, rejected, behind a base ball field in the corner of the grounds, several years after I left Benton Elementary.

(Report Comment)

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