THE BLOG
01/20/2012 08:24 am ET | Updated Mar 21, 2012

Lowering Our Expectations Will Leave Our Children Behind


As a mother, I know that I expected positive results from my children and knew that their education was the foremost important objective in their lives. Early on I instilled in them a love for learning; and their academic successes were recognized with special treats because in our home we expected the high standards we set for them to be met.

Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was implemented in 2001, the national drop-out rate has decreased from 10.7% to 8.1%. Although the progress is slow, we are nonetheless making gradual shifts in turning around low graduation and high dropout rates for minority students. NCLB was far from perfect, but it did provide the metrics for keeping track of a student's progress and also allocated vital resources for turning around low student achievement. In order to maintain the momentum inspired with NCLB, a reauthorization of the bill should not include lowering the standards for schools and districts, but instead, maintaining that all students deserve for us to set high standards with the expectation that they too will meet them.

A revision to the bill, called the Harkin-Enzi ESEA Reauthorization Bill, endangers the infrastructure for turning around low graduation rates and low performing schools that NCLB created. According to the proposed legislation, students but particularly poor and minority students and students with disabilities, aren't worth defending. This is not a recipe for reinstating the U.S. as the country leading in student success. The high school drop-out rate of minorities is higher than the national average rate. For instance, Hispanics drop out of high school three times more often than Anglo-Americans and twice more often than African-Americans. Because underperforming schools have the highest concentration of Hispanics, minority students are the ones that are most affected by the proposed legislation. It is no overstatement that the proposed legislation would undoubtedly widen the inequality gap.

In fact, all the draft revisions of the No Child Left Behind Act could destroy what little ground we have gained in improving our children's education. The simple genius in NCLB makes states accountable for student performance, which makes schools work harder to be in compliance with the federal government. If students don't progress academically, the federal government has the authority to restructure the school to seek improvement. We should demand that students receive proper education that reflects the $25 billion investment that taxpayers are providing to K-12 education each year.

Additionally, the proposed legislation fails to require states to have adequate evaluation systems for their teachers. At present, most school districts only have evaluation systems that rate 99% of teachers as "satisfactory" or better, regardless of how much students are learning. Although the draft of the proposed law provides for the bottom 5% of underperforming schools to receive extra resources that they can use to improve student performance, what about the other 95% of underperforming schools? What happens to them? They are left with the inability to hire better-qualified teachers or to have free tutoring sessions leaving underperforming students treading water to wait it out. The current version of the Harkin-Enzi draft, proposed to reauthorize NCLB with substantial changes, fails to hold schools accountable for many already underserved students, particularly children of color. Instead of allowing Congress to pass a bad bill, we should pressure the Department of Education to utilize the waiver application process to hold states to a high standard. States should be granted waivers from certain provisions of NCLB only if they outline exactly how they will hold schools accountable for all children.

How can we teach our children about high standards if we lower our own expectations?