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The Pros and Cons of NCLB


I AM WRITING THIS in response to all the hysteria about No Child Left Behind. As a nine-year member of a local school board, I have seen education experiments come and go. Outcomes-based education and then standards became battleground issues. Each time a new process was introduced, the public education community resisted the change because they figured, "This too shall pass."

Along comes a bill out of the federal government, penned by both parties. More money than ever was provided for public education by the federal DOE. Oh, but there were strings attached. There was an accountability piece to this bill and when examined, it was determined to be unreasonable.

All the hype about what AYP is, or about groups that should or should not be included, have some merit for dis- cussion. My problem is that the public education leadership, i.e. teacher education associations, administrator associations, school boards associations, etc., are trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. For the first time in history, the conversation is about meeting standards and continuous improvement. For the first time there is a mechanism for helping schools that need help, based on a fixed criteria. Maybe not everybody agrees with those criteria, but get over it. The year 2014 is a long way down the road and perhaps several administrations as well, so just live with your AYP and do everything you can to improve education in the district that you control rather than whining about never reaching 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

There is also a political component to these naysayers and that is to discount the boldest step to better public education, and try to say it is a failure. There can be an argument made that the federal government has no business in education, that it should be left to the states, but that is not reality. There is a DOE and Secretary Rod Paige and his staff have done a remarkable job given the resistance they have faced. I hope that in the months ahead NCLB will be evaluated on an objective basis and not just to discount a bipartisan effort to better our schools and leave fewer children behind.

-Larry Wittig,

Pennsylvania state Board of Education member

Tamaqua Area School Board member

Tamaqua, Penn.

I APPLAUD THE NUMEROUS ARTICLES AND your editorial comments [on NCLB] in the April 2004 edition of DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION ("Open Season," p. 30). Rod Paige is without a doubt the lousiest education secretary this country has ever had. Many of us know, after what he did while at the head of the Houston Public Schools, he should be in jail!

You hit the nail on the head in your editor's letter. The Bush administration just doesn't get it. You cannot reform public education by sending out a representative (i.e. Rod Paige) and announcing that the "floggings shall continue until morale improves." Educators in the field recognize just that. NCLB is a political, not an educational, bill. It is destined to fail because it represents no consensus, much less any involvement, from the educational community, the same group Paige branded as "terrorists."

Imagine that: involving the educational community, local schools and parents in school reform. During the Bush-Gore debates it was Bush who said, "We must get the federal government out of our local schools." "More money is not the answer." Well, at least he kept one of those promises. And, it looks like the old Republican dog, "more money for our public schools is not the answer" may finally be gettin' a little tired of huntin'.

-Denny P. Ulmer

Executive Director

BRIC Special Education Cooperative

Bemidji, Minn.