Congressional Gridlock on Education Needlessly Threatens Schools

Published on August 14, 2011
by The Washington Post in ESEA / No Child Left Behind

From Robert McCartney's article:

"...Now ask yourself: Does anybody really believe that Virginia schools deteriorated that much in 12 months? Of course not. It just meant the cutoff for a passing grade had jumped.

For instance, Fairfax as a whole got a failing grade this year for the first time since 2007, even though its overall test scores were unchanged from 2010. Many schools with high overall scores and excellent reputations were listed as inadequate, including W.T. Woodson, Lake Braddock and Chantilly high schools.

In Maryland, 44 percent of elementary and middle schools were labeled as failing earlier this summer. That seems a wee bit at odds with the assessment of Education Week magazine, which has ranked Maryland’s public schools as No. 1 in the nation for three consecutive years.

“NCLB has outlived its usefulness,” said Josh Starr, Montgomery County’s new superintendent. “Test scores are not the equivalent of a profit and loss statement. . . . You have to look at multiple sources of information to understand how well kids are doing and how well schools are doing.”

Ultimately, the failure lies with Congress and the White House. President Obama, preoccupied with the stimulus package and health-care reform, took too long proposing an NCLB overhaul when Democrats controlled Congress. Now Republicans who control the House can’t agree on a proposal, partly because some conservatives believe the federal government should stay out of education entirely.

“What’s changed in the last two years, frankly, is the tea party. There’s such an intense, anti-federal component in the ideology now,” said Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, an independent think tank.

NCLB passed originally with bipartisan support and was championed by a Republican president, George W. Bush. Correcting its defects is a good place to start whenever Congress is ready to set aside partisanship and get something done."