Ten of the best school-reform ideas from readers

9. Hold students to higher standards of learning … without the draconian consequences for failure that encourage schools to ‘bend the rules.’

While the No Child Left Behind Act has drawn attention to the needs of students who often were marginalized in the past, its heavy sanctions for schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in every subgroup has led to a “dumbing down” of standards to ensure that more students pass.

Finding a better balance between flexibility and accountability would allow states and school districts to adhere to more rigorous standards without the fear of losing funding as a result, says Emil Butler of the Grayson County Day Report Center.

“‘No Child Left Behind’ seems to mean ‘no child held accountable to any meaningful level of academic achievement,’” Bulter wrote. “Our schools now have no fewer than seven types of high school diploma. The lowest of these is commonly referred to as the ‘breath diploma’; if they can put breath on a mirror, they can get a diploma. I deal with convicted felons on a daily basis, and I am appalled at the number of young adults who have high school diplomas but cannot read. In fact, many can hardly write their own names. Most of these folks have convictions for drug-related offenses, and most do not have, and have never had, employment of any consequence. Little wonder, since it would be impossible for them to even complete an employment application. Equally astonishing is the fact that, as reported by the Associated Press in December 2010, almost 25 percent of recent high school graduates fail the U.S. Army entrance test (a passing score for the Army is 31 out of 99; higher scores are required for the other branches of service). The article notes that a typical question is: ‘If 2 plus X equals 4, what is the value of X?’”

He concluded: “I’m afraid that ‘No Child Left Behind’ is ensuring that our country is being left behind.”

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