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April 18, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Federal law sets an unrealistic measure of success for the nation’s schools

Since its passage more than a decade ago, the federal No Child Left Behind Act has frustrated educators across the nation. In its attempt to raise educational achievement, it made success virtually impossible.

High standards are good, but the law takes a one-size-fits-all approach. A school that fails to meet any one of the 45 measures is considered to have failed. By 2014, all schools must fully meet math and reading standards.

As Karoun Demirjian and Paul Takahashi reported in Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that more than 80 percent of the nation’s schools are on track to be “failures” this year under No Child Left Behind.

The Clark County School District was put on the federal Education Department’s watch list last week because 61 percent of its schools failed to achieve what the law calls “adequate yearly progress.”

The consequences for failing schools can be severe, including the removal of staff, and that’s harsh considering the standards just aren’t reasonable.

This week, Duncan said he would waive the law’s requirements for states that come up with better proposals to improve student achievement. The waiver will be in place until Congress resolves its impasse over reauthorizing the law.

Lawmakers haven’t been able to come to an agreement over the law, nor have they changed its rigid demands. Instead of working with Democrats to find ways to craft sensible policy, Republican leaders in the House have pursued legislation that would take money away from programs that help a variety of students, including those who are poor, Native American or learning English as a second language.

Things in Washington aren’t expected to change soon — Congress is in recess this month — so any type of agreement to deal with the underlying problems of the law is still weeks away.

“Congress didn’t act. It should have acted; we can’t afford to sit here and not help the states,” Duncan said. “Our move can be a bridge or a transition ... people are begging, they’re imploring us to do that right thing.”

Nevada is expected to apply for a waiver, but there are no guarantees. Last year, the state failed to win funding in the Education Department’s Race to the Top program, which offered money to states with innovative plans.

However, Duncan said his department wants to work with states and help them, saying he is “really interested in those states that are trying to get better.”

That’s good news because the Nevada Legislature did make some changes in the law this year designed to improve education, including plans to make it easier to fire bad teachers. The state is also evaluating a new model to measure and track student achievement, and it promises to give educators valuable information that could help boost student achievement.

Duncan’s offer to give waivers is welcome. The states should be seen as incubators for innovation in education, and it will give them the freedom to focus on educating students instead of meeting unrealistic goals.

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  1. Race to the Top is a COMPETITION for funding, specifically for screened money earmarked by BILLIONAIRES while Americans have fallen asleep allowing others to control their children's education.

    No Child Left Behind, authored by Diane Ratevitch, denounced it later and claimed it to be a terrible mistake. Too late now, since the hands of the innept and the greedy have taken hold without so much an outcry from the taxpaying public all along the way.
    I will again repeat myself:

    Please read:

    Education in the United States of America is under the influence of corporate billionaires. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are promoted by these Billionaires as well as these Billionaires are also receiptiants benefitting from publishing, testing, analysis, other industries, etc. Can you now conclude that the very wealthy, powerful, elite billionaires of the USA, are are unfairly influencing public education? To uncover this little known truth, please take the time to read the Winter, 2011, Dissent article, "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," by Joanne Barkan.

    This responds to (Governor Sandoval's Educational consultant) Michelle Rhea and the anti-public education movie, Waiting for Superman, this article in Disent sets the facts straight about WHO is really controlling public education...and it ain't the public! Ms. Barkan writes, "All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K--12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. "

    As negotiations between CCSD and the Clark County Teachers have gone into impasse, you should know that in Nevada, Teachers CAN NOT STRIKE. Many are and have for quite a few years now, work more than one job. As any human being, they want to work for a decent pay and benefits to support themselves and their families, you won't hear stories or demands for great wealth. They are a pretty humble bunch, as a rule, they aren't lawyers or politicians, so it is one reason why they hire Union reps to keep track of laws and policies that represent their interests, and negotiate when need be. Nothing more, nothing less.

    With government demonstrating it's lack of moral compass and good thinking, it would be extremely refreshing and even a miracle to see "GOOD THINKING" take place. My prayers are believing there are still a few good thoughts left.

  2. Irony is Duncan et al will give more "flexability" and money to states which accept more federal dominance in K-12 education not less. IE, accept the Common Core or else.