Shining some light into No Child Left Behind

It looks like another light will shine into the dark recesses of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has taken a significant step toward some enlightenment in the national policy that labels schools as "failing to make adequate yearly progress" through a complicated test-and-compare formula.

She will allow up to 10 states to measure the progress of students from one year to the next - an eminently sensible idea that could easily have been the criteria from the start.

In fact, a number of educators - including Nevadans - suggested as much in the beginning. But the federal Education Department was so intent on imposing its restrictions from the top that it wasn't open to revisions, no matter how logical.

After all, the measurements in No Child Left Behind should be of the progress of students, not schools.

How can one possibly compare one class to the next year's and expect to get an accurate picture of whether students and curriculum are living up to expectations? This is especially true under No Child Left Behind, which emphasizes the lowest end of the learning scale and unfairly degrades schools when a handful of its most challenging students fails to make the grade.

Any teacher will tell you that one class may be brilliant while the next is a struggle every day. And Nevada, with its influx of families from states all over the country, seems especially susceptible to wide disparities in student preparedness.

No Child Left Behind doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, so it's good to see adjustments being made. The sooner the better, which makes us wonder why the Education Department is limiting to 10 the number of states able to implement this much-needed change.


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