The federal No Child Left Behind law was well-intended. It was expected to force schools to be more accountable by raising education expectations and setting a goal for all students to be proficient in reading and mathematics.
It hasn't worked. It's wasted millions of taxpayer dollars as the federal government has set up oversight (as well as huffed and puffed). It has threatened to withhold funding for the worst performing schools while knowing this action would only worsen the problem at these schools.
Individual states - including Washington - have been looking for a way to improve their schools while avoiding falling into the No Child Left Behind trap. Earlier this month Washington became the 26th state to be granted a waiver from the federal mandate.
Last week five more states - including Oregon - were granted waivers. This brings the total to 31.
Since this law has been on the books, it appears schools have been going backward, not forward. In 2011, 48 percent of the nation's public schools failed to reach No Child Left Behind testing targets, the highest percentage considered failing since President George W. Bush signed the law in 2002, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy.
It can't be determined if the No Child Left Behind law has contributed to this decline in schools meeting the standards, but it is certainly possible. A lot of precious time and resources are wasted trying to chase the federal target that might have been unrealistic for that school. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't work with learning.
Washington state has, to its credit, imposed higher standards that have been tailored to graduation requirements. The threshold to earn a high school diploma has been made more challenging.
We would expect the Legislature, as well as state and local school officials, to stay on this track regardless of what the federal government says or does.
Schools are a state and local responsibility.
The Constitution clearly spells out the responsibilities of the federal government. Education is not mentioned.
Courts have made it clear the federal government has no legal authority to oversee state and local schools, which is why the only way it can sidestep that issue is to withhold its funding.
It's time to pull the plug. Repeal this lousy law.
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