Indiana is being freed from one of the worst policies passed by our government in the last 10 years: No Child Left Behind.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that 10 states, Indiana among them, are receiving waivers from many of NCLB’s requirements.
This is good news.
Last year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicted 82 percent of public schools would be labeled “failing” by NCLB standards. If 82 percent of your schools are failing federal standards, maybe the standards themselves require some investigation.
The spectre of NCLB’s often unreachable “adequate yearly progress” has been replaced with what we hope is a more manageable grade system based on new state standards that focus on closing achievement gaps. No schools are expected to get a failing grade by 2020.
While the waiver releases Indiana from NCLB’s ineffective requirements, it also presents several stumbling blocks for the state.
Is Indiana government trustworthy and capable enough to make necessary improvements?
Gov. Mitch Daniels cut $300 million from Indiana schools in 2010 alone and returned only $150 million to education the following year. The drastic layoff of hundreds of teachers is still fresh in our memories.
Coaches and extracurricular advisors went unpaid last year in the local Monroe County Community School Corporation.
And let us remind you: This is the same state whose Senate approved the teaching of creationism in public schools.
So, while we’re not very confident in our man Mitch or state superintendent Tony Bennett, who called NCLB a “giant step forward for our nation’s schools,“ we believe state-created standards have more potential to improve education in Indiana.
State-sponsored reform will better focus on specific issues with Indiana public schools.
Real change is more likely to occur at the local level, thanks to involvement of school boards and community leaders, than from the intervention of faceless federal mandates.
Where NCLB often relied on standardized tests to assess special needs and non-English-speaking students, these new Indiana standards will be more careful to follow the progress of “Bottom 25 percent” students.
We’re grateful Indiana can now articulate its own standards, but whether this will result in measurable and useful change remains to be seen. Nevertheless, we can’t imagine the end of NCLB as a negative.
Ten states have already been released from the ridiculousness of NCLB, and we hope other states will create proposals that force the federal government to relinquish NCLB’s stranglehold on public education.