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Children Soon Left Behind

In GOOD issue 12, education expert and Huffington Post-blogger Gary Stager penned an essay about a system held hostage by No Child Left Behind. He derides the program as a "a mathematically impossible piece of federal education legislation, which requires all of the nation's schoolchildren to be above..\n

In GOOD issue 12, education expert and Huffington Post-blogger Gary Stager penned an essay about a system held hostage by No Child Left Behind. He derides the program as a "a mathematically impossible piece of federal education legislation, which requires all of the nation's schoolchildren to be above the mean on standardized tests by 2014."


Looks like the fuzzy math behind NCLB is threatening to leave some kids (along with their schools) behind. Yesterday, The New York Times reported about a school in Sacramento, Calif., that for the first time failed to meet the requirements set by the 2002 law. Apparently the same thing happened to hundreds of other schools in the state-and many more nationwide.

What's behind this widespread failure? NCLB requires that states get all their students proficient at reading and math by 2014-that means states like California had to get 85 percent of their schoolchildren up to snuff. Apparently state officials had decided to start slow, bringing scores up a couple of percentage points per year and then getting more ambitious. (They hoped that the 2007 Congress would relax the standards. That didn't happen.) Now, California schools are on the hook for raising proficiency by 11 percent every year-definitely not an easy task.

If the first-time failures disappoint again, they could get federal sanctions-a scenario that some have likened to balloon payments that result in home foreclosures. Sanctions aren't going to help the children in each school. So these states' attempts to game NCLB are akin to predatory lending; and our schools are like the homebuyers?

And while Joe Six Pack American suffered at the hands of the housing crisis, schoolchildren will ultimately pay the price in this fiasco? Sounds like a broken system to us.

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