Press-Republican

Guest Column

August 18, 2013

Innovative ideas should be the norm

My column two weeks ago on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) generated a lot more response than I thought warranted; not that there was a whole lotta response, just more than I normally receive.

For example, I heard from two school principals, one who gave me a gold star for my position on the NCLB and one who wanted to give me two weeks detention for my “snide comment” about the 180-day work year.

At the risk of having to write “I will not make fun of teachers” 100 times, neatly, in cursive, in ink, I will continue the education theme.

Much has been written about how American schools are failing and how American students are falling behind those of other developed countries. Every year, just like Punxsutawney Phil, some organization or other pops out of their hole and releases a report on how poorly our nation’s schools are doing.

Moreover, it seems, each report is just a little worse than the one preceding it.

Just this week, this newspaper ran a story on how 70 percent of New York’s third- through eighth-graders are not proficient in English language arts and math. What surprised me was that State Education Department (SED) officials forewarned us that the test results would be bad because of “newly implemented state standards.”

News flash: We weren’t doing all that well before the newly implemented standards.

So now we have yet another new set of standards to gauge student success, or lack thereof. It seems that there have been many programs aimed at improving educational outcomes and many standards to evaluate that success, or lack thereof.

Some of those programs were successful, School-to-Work, for example.

Conceived by then-President Bill Clinton, School-to-Work was a response to criticism about the failing American education system. The president’s goal was to “make education relevant to students’ future careers, adapt instruction to the ways in which students learn best, and ensure that students learn the habits and skills that employers value.”

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