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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Chatter: March 22

Schoolhouse Rock

President Barack Obama yesterday announced his plan to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Rather than continuing the previous act’s emphasis on students passing national standardized exams for reading and math comprehension, Obama’s plan will focus on preparing students for college and careers. With this goal in mind, the president will encourage schools to broaden their curricula beyond just emphasizing reading and mathematics, the areas that No Child Left Behind tracked. Obama’s proposed overhaul of education policy contains many much−needed improvements. However, the Obama administration’s execution and timing of this plan may end up actually hurting its goals.

The proposed overhaul would address many of the flaws of No Child Left Behind. The main strength of the administration’s education plan is that it redefines the goals of the American education system in a pragmatic light. Rather than using standardized test results to gauge students’ aptitude compared to their peers’ each year, the administration is proposing to use testing to track students’ individual progress from year to year. This system comes closer to ensuring that no child actually gets left behind, since it follows students to make sure that they consistently receive effective education instead of looking only at a group of yearly test scores.

In order to produce math and reading test results and receive federal funding under No Child Left Behind, many schools have neglected programs in science, history, art, physical education and other subjects. With his new plan, Obama will instead allow schools to test a wider range of subjects and incorporate the results in the evaluation of the school’s success. By allowing schools to teach and test more than just math and reading, students with strong skills in the sciences, history, etc. will be able to succeed by federal standards as well. Test scores will more fairly reflect schools’ success and students’ aptitude.

The administration’s plan lays out new goals for each grade level based on college- and career-ready criteria. Reasoning and research skills will be incorporated earlier and emphasized more. The abilities to reason and argue different opinions and to research to support ideas are critical for success in college and in the workplace. Although these skills are not as easy to compress into the format of a standardized test, they are more genuine indicators of a successful education, and the administration deserves praise for proposing this step.

However, Obama’s education proposal faces major challenges in the current political climate. Since the bill is not expected to be presented to Congress until August, it is unlikely to receive attention, as legislators will be caught up in preparing for the midterm elections. Additionally, with Republicans in Congress criticizing the president for his health care bill, they are unlikely to support what they will condemn as another costly federal intervention.

The administration needs to reassess its strategy in order to get this important education reform passed. If today’s students are to succeed in college and in the workplace in the future, we need to change the standards by which we measure their learning. The president and his advisors need to find a way to make the importance of education reform clear to a distracted and polarized Congress, or else the inadequacies of No Child Left Behind will continue to let American schools stagnate.

—””Proper implementation of education reform needed,”” The Tufts Daily editorial board, March 16

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