Quietly Renegotiating the Terms of NCLB

Friday, February 17, 2006

Quietly Renegotiating the Terms of NCLB

A new study by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project raises concerns about a Bush administration practice concerning the so-called "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law:
... (Education) Department officials have been approving changes in how states implement NCLB by negotiating changes individually with each state. The authors contend that this process of making compromises with individual states has altered the meaning of accountability since no two states are now subject to the same requirements.

According to Gail Sunderman, the report’s author ... “Rather than deal systematically with the problems in the law, the Department of Education has adopted a political strategy to changing NCLB. But this also suggests that the law is not working very well.”

... “The problem with this approach is that it does not affect all schools equally,” says Sunderman.

Since many high performing schools and districts are labeled as failing under NCLB, this has become a political issue. ... For example, changes some states have negotiated in how districts are held accountable under NCLB reduce the number of districts identified for improvement, but these changes primarily benefit those districts serving more white than minority students.

Professor Gary Orfield, Director of the Civil Rights Project, believes that these glaring inconsistencies produce cynicism ...

“The effort to paper over the defects of the law’s limited and unrealistic accountability scheme has failed,” he says, “and threatens the entire effort unless Congress and the Administration admit the problems and work together with educators to devise means that will produce serious reforms and genuine gains.”
Unfortunately, the Bush gang has never been good at admitting its mistakes.

It also makes me wonder which states are more likely to negotiate favorable terms with Bush's Education Department. Perhaps those with GOP governors who don't want to face the embarrassment that would come with having a lot of schools within their states labeled as "failing"?

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