The dual attacks on No Child Left Behind by Billie Stanton and Patrick McAndrew on Nov. 26 were not justified given what the act is trying to do.
Stanton and McAndrew draw NCLB to task for not addressing the needs of high-potential students (“Destroying potential”).
They acknowledge the unintended consequences of this federal act, then seem to advocate yet another federal program – the Javits Act, in Stanton’s case, and a new “federal mandate for education reform” from McAndrew.
But Subpart 6 of NCLB is the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 2001. So Stanton really is advocating greater funding for this subpart.
No argument there, but it’s hardly justification for her statement “Unless NCLB is overhauled – or better yet, replaced . . .”
McAndrew’s position is equally unjustified.
What they should advocate, based on their stated desires, is to strengthen this subpart, not throw out NCLB.
What about NCLB’s other consequences? I have no problem with wanting reform. I am a strong advocate of local control and hence put my efforts into governance of a local private school.
But as the $130 billion allocated to the 1965 educational act that preceded NCLB met with declining student achievement, Congress felt the need to act.
Hence NCLB is here, and it is best to fix rather than abandon it.
As with almost every program, the first try at developing something sweeping will result in unintended consequences and misplaced priorities.
There must be measured changes and, in some cases, outright direction to schools in order to clean up some of the mess made by the schools’ boards, administrations and teachers.
The problems associated with possible redirection of resources from the gifted to the remedial are an example of those unintended consequences.
The fault is not with the act, but rather with the implementation by school boards, administrators and teachers.
NCLB doesn’t require abandoning gifted programs (in fact, Subpart 6 advocates gifted programs), but the need to raise the abysmal performance of many schools has sucked the funds away from those programs.
But don’t tell me that’s because it is an “unfunded mandate.” NCLB is no more an unfunded mandate than the Environmental Protection Act was an unfunded mandate.
The federal government has the right to set standards when its funds are being used if it feels the states cannot do (or have not done) so adequately.
I have encountered many teachers, administrators and school governance personnel in my work with schools and in private business.
The vast majority, whether public, charter or private, have big hearts and tremendous dedication.
But just as bad laws can be passed by good people in Congress, so can bad policies and practices be implemented by these dedicated personnel.
In the case of NCLB and the Arizona school system, the real fix needs to be in the implementation.
Yes, make small changes in NCLB, but don’t throw out the act or substitute it with a new one.
The former would let us go back to the education system we had, which is worse, and the latter would have its own set of unintended consequences and misguided implementation at the state and local level.
Grant A. Anderson is a father of three, board member of a private school and the founder and executive of a Tucson aerospace firm.