Diagnosing the Problem Without Offering a Cure

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To the Editor:

After reading your front-page article "‘No Child’ Law Remains at Top of Bush Record," (Sept. 29, 2004) , I remain deeply troubled by this federal legislation’s implications for children and schools.

Discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act has too often devolved into partisan sniping contests pitting Republicans against Democrats. While it is a political season, I still would like discussion of the law to focus on the impact it has on students and schools.

As an elementary school principal, I have seen a marked increase in accountability requirements and testing to measure student achievement. The move toward accountability is certainly to be applauded. Education, like most enterprises, will not change of its own accord. Only through a thoughtful, measured system that carefully analyzes the performance of schools and students will we be able to identify whether or not students are really being served.

Unfortunately, “diagnosing” the problem through increased accountability measures is the easy part of the school improvement equation. Once we have carefully analyzed how well students and schools are performing, which the law is doing reasonable well, we need to prescribe the actions that will further improve students’ learning.

As a front-line practitioner, this is where my frustration with the “No Child” law lies: I don’t see what part of it is going to help me better meet the needs of my students. The law dispenses punishment if my school does not perform to standards, yet it offers no mechanism for helping meet the standards.

Coupled with the economic problems here in Michigan, I don’t see student achievement being positively impacted by the No Child Left Behind law. I’m afraid we will correctly diagnose failing schools and underperforming students, but not have the means to help them.

M. Jon Dean
Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.

Vol. 24, Issue 08, Page 42

Published in Print: October 20, 2004, as Diagnosing the Problem Without Offering a Cure

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