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Why NCLB is necessary

November 25, 2005

In an early Christmas present for the Bush administration, a federal judge this week dismissed a suit design to block the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

The plaintiffs argued that the law promised federal funds to cover the costs of additional testing and instruction, but they say that, in many cases, the new measures cost more than the feds deliver.

In our view, NCLB usurps local school boards' authority over education and adds a new layer of expensive federal control. It also may promise more in funding than it delivers.

That said, the harsh medicine of NCLB may be the only way to address the problems detailed in the 1983 report, "A Nation At Risk."

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The report, done over 18 months by a presidential commission, found appalling gaps in the nation's educational system. The report's warnings include the following:

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

Too many Americans were functionally illiterate, SAT scores were falling and a greater portion of American 17-year-olds were unable to write persuasive essays or do multi-step math problems

The report concluded that "education should be at the top of the nation's agenda."

In April 2003, the Christian Science Monitor looked at how much progress had been made in 20 years. It found that SAT scores had risen, but not to their 1970 levels.

The Koret Task Force of Stanford University also found that while the 1983 report set the stage for improvement, the educational system hadn't delivered nearly enough.

We have long opposed school strikes for one simple reason. If an auto manufacturer is hit by a strike, buyers are free to choose another brand.

A third-grader, however, will have only one chance to learn that year's lessons and an uninterrupted term is the better way to go.

Children can repeat grades and take remedial classes in college, but they should be spending that time learning new things, not relearning previous lessons.

NCLB may be flawed and we would favor tweaking it so that educators are not forced "teach to the test."

But NCLB has established one important rule -progress is mandatory for all students, not just the gifted and the affluent.

If another, better way is found to ensure that, then it will be time to talk about eliminating NCLB.

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