Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don’t Fix No Child Left Behind, End It

Children are taught the value of perseverance. It’s a virtue, they are told, to keep working until the job gets done. But sometimes the opposite is needed: The candor to reassess and recognize when it’s time to throw in the towel. Since 2007, Congress has been debating whether to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Last week the House passed the Student Success Act, which attempts to restore more control over education to states, schools, and parents. It eliminates or consolidates dozens of federal programs in an effort to reduce the federal footprint and encourage a more “appropriate” federal role in education.

Rather than push ahead with reauthorization, Congress should retire NCLB and take a fresh look at government’s role in education.

NCLB is the eighth reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which was a key program in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. It directs federal funds to a variety of programs intended to improve education for disadvantaged students. NCLB was supposed to be different from previous reauthorizations because it mandates annual statewide testing for students and that test results for all student sub-groups be made public. NCLB requires “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) targets for student proficiency in reading and math, and penalties for schools and districts that fail to meet those targets.

According to NCLB, this coming year, for example, 100 percent of American public school children, regardless of income, race, disability, or native language, are supposed to be proficient in reading and math. No state is even close.

Rather than mete out the various penalties, the Obama administration has given 39 states waivers. It’s understandable why the Administration doesn’t want to punish schools for not meeting unrealistic education goals, but this waiver approach is flawed. The federal government should instead move to tackle the bigger problem of federal micromanagement of schooling by scrapping NCLB and returning local control over education to parents in states and localities.

Americans share the desire to ensure that all children receive an excellent education. But that doesn’t mean the federal government has the solution. In fact, NCLB—like most other federal efforts to dictate education policy—has proven a costly, confusing waste of time and money.

The administrative burden of complying with NCLB was an estimated 7.8 million hours at a cost of more than $235 million in 2011 alone. Worse, there is scant evidence that this expensive red tape has improved student learning. Achievement results before and after NCLB’s implementation show no appreciable improvement in students’ educational outcomes and no sustained narrowing of the achievement gap.

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 17-year-olds have risen just one and two points, respectively, in math and reading, since the early 1970s. Meanwhile, the average high school graduation rate remains stuck at around 75 percent—the same as it was in the mid-1970s, in spite of the many attempts from the federal government to improve education.

Nearly 50 years of failure is enough. There is no reason to believe that giving the federal government more time and more money will improve student outcomes. It’s time for a new approach.

First, Congress should prohibit any NCLB program from being reauthorized. All related program funding should be returned to the states with no federal strings attached—the most flexible plan of all.

Second, no piece of federal education legislation should be enacted until the U.S. Constitution is amended giving Congress express authority to pass education-related legislation. The president and his education secretary must stop bypassing Congress, unilaterally issuing waivers, and doling out taxpayer dollars for the administration’s pet policies, most notably Common Core national standards.

Finally, state lawmakers should enact and expand parental choice programs. Today, 250,000 students nationwide are benefiting from parental choice programs, up from 50,000 in 2001. Rigorous scientific research proves parental choice works; parental choice saves money; parental choice is constitutional; and, best of all, parental choice programs change children’s lives for the better.

Public policy should be based on hard evidence—not just noble intentions. NCLB has failed and may be hindering the state-level, parent-driven innovations that create real educational opportunities for all students.

Washington needs to stop tinkering with old federal education laws and recognize that getting out of the way and allowing taxpayer dollars to fund what works for each student is the best way to improve education throughout the United States.


California lawmaker pulls son from class over transgender law

A Republican state lawmaker says a new California law allowing transgender students to choose which restroom and locker room they use is part of the reason at least one of his sons will not return to his local public school this fall.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lives in the Southern California mountain community of Twin Peaks, described his family's decision in a column published on WND, a conservative website.

He wrote that under the bill from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, the privacy rights of California students "will be replaced by the right to be ogled" and will encourage inappropriate behavior among hormone-driven teenagers.

"While trying to address a concern of less than 2 percent of the population, California is now forcibly violating the rights of the other 98 percent," Donnelly wrote.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Monday, making California the first state to put such transgender protections into statute.

Donnelly told The Associated Press on Friday that his 13- and 16-year-old sons, who attend Rim of the World Unified School District in the San Bernardino Mountains, were "horrified" to learn they might have to share a restroom with female students.

He is pulling one son out of middle school, while another son is uncertain if he will return to his public high school. The decision is one that his family already had been discussing before the bill was approved.

"If it doesn't change his school experience, he may still stay," Donnelly said of his high-school student. "We don't know yet how this policy is going to affect our town."

A message left with the school district's superintendent's office was not immediately returned.

The law, which will take effect Jan. 1, gives students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities" based on the gender they identify with as opposed to their birth gender. Those programs also include sports teams.

Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students and note that the state's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has had such a policy for nearly a decade.

But detractors say allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students' privacy.

Donnelly, who is exploring a bid for governor next year, said he is hearing concerns from a growing number of parents across the state. Some of those parents have told him they also plan to remove their students from public school, although he said the parents he has spoken with have declined to speak publicly about their decision.

Donnelly's comments Friday came as two conservative groups opposed to the law, the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute and Capitol Resource Institute, filed language for a ballot referendum with the state attorney general's office seeking to repeal AB1266.

The justice institute also is distributing a form that parents can send to school districts, stating that their child's rights include the right to privacy from students of the opposite gender in situations such as changing clothes.

Brad Dacus, the institute's president, said the organization has drawn significant interest from parents who are upset by the new law. He said the form "puts the school district on notice that students aren't surrendering their rights to privacy."


Oxbridge ‘hegemony’ will end, says head

It's certainly true that there are some good London universities but they don't have the cachet of Oxbridge now and it is hard to see why they will in the future  -- JR

A group of universities will become a “super Ivy League” and break the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in university league tables, a leading headmaster has said.

Tim Hands, incoming chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of top private schools said that several London universities had already narrowed the gap and the end of the Oxbridge “hegemony” would benefit young people, according to The Times.

He said: “We are going to have a super Ivy League of Imperial, UCL, LSE, and then Oxbridge won’t be so apart, which must be good for our society. We are already getting towards it.”

Dr Hands is Master of Magdalen College School, in Oxford, which is sending 47 pupils to Oxford and Cambridge this year and has some of the best A-level results in England.

But he said: “If we can get rid of the Oxbridge hegemony it will be so much better for young people. Just as the 11-plus divided people into sheep and goats, anything that makes people at 18 think they are sheep and goats is bad or must be in danger of being bad.

"So if we could have a perception that there is a wider set of top universities, that will have to be good. And there are many signs that is happening.”

Dr Hands said he regularly tells parents of his pupils that Oxford and Cambridge are “not the be-all and should not become the end-all”.

He said: “Parents and pupils do tend to see those universities — after all, they have their own term, Oxbridge — as being apart, in a league of their own. I think that can be very harmful to young people’s self-perceptions and to parents’ aspirations.”

Data from The Times Good University Guide does not show any change in the gap between Oxford and Cambridge and Britain’s other universities.

When the guide was launched in 1993 the gap between them and third place, then held by Imperial College, was 40 points.

In last year’s guide, the gap between Cambridge and the London School of Economics, in third place, had widened to 80 points.

But many academics predict that research funding, which tends to be focused on science and medicine, will largely go to a league of universities that include Imperial, UCL, King’s College London and Manchester.

Last spring the Russell Group of Britain’s biggest research universities expanded from 20 members to 24 as it included Durham, Exeter, York and Queen Mary University of London.


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