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Opening Arguments

Right problem, wrong solution

The Journal Gazetee had an editorial Saturday that contained much I agreed with concerning the ill-conceived No Child Left Behind Act, which was supposed to ensure all students reached state-defined proficiency levels in reading and math by 2014. Such a stunning overreach was bound to fail:

In the end, a great deal of time and money was wasted with little benefit to students, as the national test scores show.

Exactly right. But in drawing a moral from the fiasco, the JG goes predictably wrong:

The experience of No Child Left Behind should serve as a lesson here. There always will be experts who insist their prescribed approach is the right one. The lure of millions in federal dollars is too much for them to resist.


Congress must accept that there is no single approach that works for all schools and for all students. They must focus on giving schools the resources and flexibility to tailor instruction to their own students' needs, whether it's helping special-needs students, those who are learning English or those who come from poverty.

But if there "is no single approach," the obvious answer is to take education out of the hands of the agency that is trying to force the single approach, i.e. the federal government, and put it back in the hands of the agencies that, by their very nature, take varied aproaches, i.e. states and local school boards. All of the drift toward greater federal control has led to the imminent adoption of nationwide standards on math and English. Now, if we could just make those nationwide standards flexible enough for local needs, why, our miracle will have arrived.