Bush Education Policy Leaves Common
When parents are informed that
their child attends a "failing
school," many rightfully react with bewilderment and
urgency and if possible will seek to find a school that is "succeeding." Tragically,
under the No Child Left Behind law, a school could be labeled
(or libeled) as failing even though 90 percent or more of
the students are meeting academic benchmarks. And even
more tragic, unbeknownst to such parents, they may request
a transfer to another school that while not labeled
as failing may actually be doing less well than the
so-called failing school! Sounds crazy, doesn't it?
But this is the great irony and paradox of the Bush education
initiative, which either by accident or design is causing
havoc in public school districts across the country and the
dissemination of bad information to parents-which leads to
bad decisions on their children's behalf.
All this comes about as a result of these federal guidelines,
which calculate a school's success based on how well even
minuscule subsets of a school's student population do on
academic assessments. Consequently, if a majority of students
in a subset of less than 10 percent of the overall student
population is doing poorly, the entire school is labeled
This then triggers notification to parents of their right
to transfer their child to another school. Rarely, if ever,
does a parent know why a school is labeled as failing; nor
do they know if the preferred school is actually performing
better. Moreover, taken literally, these federal regulations
would allow this transfer policy to cause schools to become
unmanageably overcrowded by virtue of a parent's absolute
right to choose the school of their preference.
Such simpleminded designations of a school's academic worth
are misleading and dangerous. Blind adherence to the absolute
transfer policy does not ensure a better education for any
child but certainly does cause chaos and instability in our
For Washington to try to micro-manage local education decisions
with regard to the assignment of local resources, personnel
and students is a very bad precedent, not to mention unworkable.
We need less regulation from Congress and more federal assistance
in funding. That funding is needed to support a new generation
of qualified teachers, up-to-date technology, and early childhood
If Washington is truly interested in advancing public education
and improved outcomes, it will leave behind its misguided
ideology, leave educating to educators and local school decision-making
to dedicated superintendents and school boards.#
Assemblyman Sanders is chairman of the Education Committee.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or
phone 212.979.9696. His mailing address is 201 East 16th
Street, New York, NY 10003.