How to Go Forward With 'No Child Left Behind'

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 15, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to "fix the failures" of the No Child Left Behind law, which rates schools based on student performance on annual math and reading tests.

The law, one of President Bush's major domestic achievements, was enacted with broad bipartisan support. But that consensus faded, and efforts to reauthorize the law stalled in the past year as lawmakers awaited a new president.

Under the law, schools must reach steadily rising performance goals. Certain schools that fall short face sanctions as severe as a management shake-up.

With Congress poised to begin the debate anew, a student, a PTA president, a charter school advocate, a teachers union leader and a superintendent offer ideas about how to improve the law. They also offer suggestions if Obama and Congress decide to give the next version of the law a new name.

Arvin Ahmadi

Student representative to the Fairfax County School Board; attends Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an elite regional magnet school

I think No Child Left Behind and its intentions are on the right track, but it definitely needs a dose of pragmatism and realism. You can't hold every American school to the same standards. Some need the bar to be lowered.

You can punish a school for not reaching the level deemed by No Child Left Behind, but it is not necessarily going to bring the results that you want.

NCLB basically takes the depth out of learning in a lot of situations. As a student, I hear a lot of my teachers talk about lifelong learning. For material to stick, it helps to go into it in depth.

Debbie Ritchie

Maryland PTA president

The federal law requires that there be assessments, but it has been up to each state to create its own. My question to them would be: Are we really comparing apples to apples, or are we comparing apples to bread? The assessment that's being done in Maryland -- can we compare it to what's being done in South Dakota?

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