YOUR OPINION: Reforming education must include flexibiility

Congress passed No Child Left Behind with solid bipartisan support in 2001. Today, a defender of President George W. Bush’s signature education legislation would be hard to find. Both major parties agree NCLB is badly in need of a rewrite. But that’s where the agreement ends.

The House voted 221-207 last week to pass the Student Success Act without a single Democratic vote, and with 12 Republicans voting against it (none of the three Republicans in western Virginia’s delegation among them).

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under a different guise is an overdue reform of a program that guaranteed school failure: Signed into law in 2002, NCLB defined success as nothing short of 100 percent student proficiency in math and reading by 2014.

Perfection could not be attained in 12 years, nor any number of years Washington might have set.

Better student performance is not only possible, though, it is essential for the nation’s continued prosperity.

If a largely do-nothing Congress intends to achieve education reform that will advance that goal, it will have to deliver legislation that alters H.R. 5 in substantive ways.

It would continue to require transparency – states and school districts still would have to report test scores and break down the results by subgroups, such as racial minorities, the poor, students with disabilities.

House Democrats further objected to a provision cutting money designated for students most at risk.

No Child has been widely criticized, not least by teachers and parents who complain an overreliance on standardized tests has reduced teaching to rote memorization and continual pre-testing, reducing the profession of teaching to test administering.

H.R. 5 preserves that regimen, though. The Senate should maintain school accountability, with added flexibility that allows good teachers to do their work.

Roanoke Times