Goodbye for now, and good riddance, No Child Left Behind.
Minnesota was one of 10 states to get the go-ahead last week to scrap easily one of the most frowned upon federal education mandates in America. NCLB forced teachers to teach to the test and if a school didn't make the grade it was tagged a "failure." Giving our schools an F is one thing, giving them that F without considering all the circumstances, like how diverse some of our schools are, was, for the most part, unfair.
Few will argue that NCLB had major flaws and that the law was simply unfair and unrealistic. Teachers and parents said schools were forced to teach to the test; parents weren't pleased about the stigma associated with their school being called a failure because it didn't meet federal standards; states said they wanted more control over how schools, students, and teachers are graded.
Well, states now have their wish, but they can't simply sit back, thinking they've got a pass. It's now up to these 10 states to implement their respective guidelines, and we think Minnesota has a good plan in the works that will benefit schools as the government continues to debate major reform to NCLB at the federal level. Instead of the pass-fail label, schools in Minnesota will now be put in one of three categories: "Reward," "Priority," and "Focus." The top 15 percent of schools get the "Reward" label, and the bottom 5 percent would be designated as "Priority." Finally, the 10 percent of schools that most contribute to the achievement gap in Minnesota would be targeted as "Focus" schools and would be charged with working with their districts and the state to address the needs of low-performing student groups, including minority students, those from low-income families, and special education students - factors that were ignored under NCLB.
The state knows we're watching and isn't messing around - it's put an aggressive target date of six years for schools to close the achievement gap by 50 percent.
Is this a perfect system? Time will tell. There might be some bugs, but they would pale in comparison to the infestation known as No Child Left Behind.