Editorial: No Child Left Behind
A pre-emptive fix
One of the biggest challenges facing the next president is fixing the No Child Left Behind Law.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings this week made a pre-emptive strike to help shape the future of the law. She announced sweeping new rules that will put more requirements and pressure on states.
It is an attempt by the Bush administration to put its final stamp on the law that set standardized-test benchmarks in math and language arts for students at every grade level to meet by 2014.
The administrative changes make sense and should be left intact whenever the new Congress takes up reauthorizing the 2002 law.
They will require schools nationwide to use the same formula to calculate high school graduation rates by 2011.
States have been using different methods, often based on unreliable dropout data that has resulted in overestimates.
A recent study by the Education Trust found that more than half the states have graduation targets that don't make schools get better. One in four students drop out; among blacks and Hispanics, one in three leave school without a diploma.
Schools will also be held accountable for improving graduation rates for students in racial, ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups and for disabled students and English-language learners.
The shift should help paint a more accurate picture of the dropout problem and force schools to beef up efforts to graduate more students.
The new rules also require low-performing schools to do a better job of informing parents that their children are eligible for free tutoring or for a transfer to a better-performing school in their district.
Critics, including the National Education Association, say Spellings should not have changed the regulations in the waning days of the Bush administration. Most of the regulations are too late to change anything in the current school year.
Spellings said she used her administrative authority because Congress left the issue on the table when it recessed without reauthorizing the federal law. Some Democrats and Republicans backed the new rules.
While the changes may cause states and school districts some angst, that is no reason to hold off on implementing the new rules.
A universal method of calculating high school graduation rates is long overdue. States should start working on a better system to track how many freshmen graduate four years later.
Even with new regulations, there is still much work ahead to fix the largely unpopular law. End unrealistic benchmarks for student performance and unfair sanctions against schools slow to progress. And fund NCLB's mandates at a proper level.
Change must begin now because our children have already waited too long for a better education.
The very idea that Indiana is shaping up to be a nip and tuck race seems to belie the Republican