Thursday, January 13, 2005

Education Reform: What's Missing From The President's Plan?

President George Bush has fired the first shot in what will undoubtedly be a very raucous debate concerning his proposal to extend provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act to America's senior high schools.

He would like to have all students that attend public schools throughout the United States take an annual battery of tests in grades 2 through 11. According to the President:
"Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing will allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will enable schools to track. Testing will make sure that the diploma is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."
While we here at the 'Wonks certainly agree that American high schools need to do a much better job of preparing students for work, college, and life, we do not think that the President's proposal goes far enough.

Ever since "Sputnik" was launched into space by the Soviet Union in 1957, Washington has been making noises about the need to reform our system of Public education. Since that time, there have been numerous efforts to overhaul the education system.

We have seen the fanfare, speeches, and general hullabaloo several times before, and like its predecessors, the No Child Left Behind Act will be likely doomed to failure because it focuses solely upon the schools as agent of systemic change.

Holding teachers and administrators accountable for student success is but one component of a three-part formula for success. As in all the other efforts to "reform" public education, the President's proposal completely neglects the other two very important components needed for success, which are those of the parents, and the students themselves.

While it may be politically popular to make educators accountable for student progress, it's not going to make students learn any better until both parents and pupils dedicate themselves to taking advantage of opportunities to succeed in the educational system.

And until parents and students are both held accountable for their efforts (or lack thereof) in obtaining a quality education, any scheme to reform America's broken public education system will almost certainly fall well below expectations.

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