The Edmond Sun


May 29, 2014

OTHER VIEW: Los Angeles Times: Why No Child Left Behind needs reform

LOS ANGELES — Congress is taking up a large number of education bills this year. Unfortunately, the issue it is ignoring — as it has for years — is the one that most needs its attention: an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act. It would be an understatement to say that school reform is in a state of disarray because of this legislative inaction.

No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001, focused public attention on how poorly many students were doing in school. At that time, low-performing school districts often took it for granted that close to half their students would drop out; students who couldn’t read were routinely promoted from grade to grade until they reached high school barely able to read a Dr. Seuss book. The new law, passed with bipartisan support, made it clear that was not acceptable.

But No Child Left Behind surely will rank as one of the most poorly constructed laws of its time. The remedies it laid out for low academic performance were narrowly drawn, unconscionably rigid and in many ways antithetical to the goal of improving education for the largest number of students. The law ushered in an era of over-reliance on test scores to measure educational quality. At the same time, it was lax about letting states set their own definitions of academic proficiency; as a result, standards varied wildly from state to state, making it much easier for states with too-low targets to meet their goals.

Now here we are in 2014, the year by which the law mandated that practically all students at all schools must be performing at grade level in their studies. With that impossible deadline to meet a goal that was never realistic — and with Congress getting nowhere on reauthorization of the law — the Obama administration took matters into its own hands and created a system of waivers from the requirements of No Child Left Behind, but only for states that agreed to meet certain conditions.

Overall, the rules for waivers were more sensible than those in the law, but they also reflected the administration’s biases. It was made clear, for instance, that states would be better situated to win a waiver if they adopted the Common Core curriculum standards, and if they made test scores a significant factor in evaluating teacher performance. The latter was an overreach; the government is within its rights to demand higher achievement in exchange for federal money, but how that is accomplished should be left to states, which are constitutionally authorized to run public schools.

Some states, including California, refused to accept the administration’s insistence on using test scores in teacher evaluations, and were denied waivers as a result. The state of Washington agreed to it and received a waiver, but now has been told its waiver is being revoked because it hasn’t followed through on its promise. Other states were warned they might lose their waivers on similar grounds, but in early May, the administration softened its stance.

Meanwhile, there has been a backlash among states that rushed to implement Common Core to obtain waivers. California, for its part, was threatened with loss of federal funding because it was only field-testing the Common Core tests this year and not producing actual test results, even though that was a legitimate and smart way to proceed. The U.S. Department of Education, which was starting to look foolish by cracking down on a state that was embracing Common Core, backed off.

In other words, right now the nation is operating under a hodgepodge of federal rules that seem to change state by state and depending on the political winds. The Obama administration hasn’t done a particularly good job, but the bulk of the blame rests with lawmakers for leaving No Child Left Behind on the books.

School reform shouldn’t be this hard. States should be allowed to set up their own improvement programs, as long as those programs meet certain parameters for ensuring steady progress for a broad spectrum of students, especially disadvantaged and minority students. The measurement of those improvements should include more than test scores. The U.S. government should get out of the business of micromanaging schools, using its authority instead to ensure that it is receiving good value for the dollars it spends on public education.

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  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
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