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So far, No Child Left Behind seems to have teachers and schools struggling to catch up.
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
It is evident that unless the states get substantial, ongoing guidance on how to spend the money coming their way under No Child Left Behind, even the most laudable goals will become pie-in-the-sky memories.
Accountability, gained by setting standards and administering tests, is a huge part of the program. Because state and local control is a hallmark of the GOP philosophy, the states are to come up with their own standards and tests.
Now there's a porcupine if there ever was one.
Are the standards in State A on par with the standards in State B? Does that matter? Are the tests fair, and do they accurately reflect students' attainment of the standards?
Some parents fear that because NCLB focuses on underachieving schools and students, their brighter children will be left behind and unchallenged.
Virginia already has the Standards of Learning, a program in which the state takes pride in developing. Is there some overlap here? The SOLs sparked an ongoing debate over excessive testing of students, especially young ones. Do they prompt teachers to "teach to the test?" Are students really learning or just memorizing?
Testing required under No Child Left Behind will only magnify those issues.
Granting the states greater flexibility in the way they spend federal dollars is a nest of hornets waiting to swarm. Ratings on public-access cable channels will soar as viewers tune into school board meetings in anticipation of fights breaking out over funding for family-life classes, or what books are being bought for the library.
If states and localities are given wide discretion over how money is spent, what students are taught in Minnesota will be very different from what they're taught in Mississippi. How do you compare those test results? Are some sort of national standards needed?
School choice means different things to different people. A young couple starting a family in the Fredericksburg area can learn about the school systems, move to a selected locality, or even near a particular school--and then hope attendance lines don't change.
They can even add private schools to the equation if they've got the funds.