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Matthew Lynch, Ed.D.

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Why I Respectfully Disagree With Obama's NCLB Waivers

Posted: 02/10/2012 1:37 pm

President Obama has agreed to exempt 10 states from the most rigorous tenets of NCLB, in exchange for adopting higher standards and creating more innovative ways of measuring student achievement. The president essentially signed this executive order because Congress has failed to amend the law in spite of widespread agreement that it needs to be revised. Let's face it, NCLB's main goal, getting all students up to par in reading and math by 2014, is not within reach, but it is a noble idea.

When George W. Bush and his bipartisan team originally drafted NCLB, I seriously doubt that they believed all of its provisions were possible. However, they knew that if the dream of educational equality was to ever be achieved in America, something drastic had to be done. The idea of 100% of America's students becoming proficient in the core subjects by 2014 was meant to send a message. For that, I applaud President Bush. He had the guts to draw a line in the sand and stick to it.

Now don't get me wrong, President Obama is my guy, but issuing waivers exempting 10 states from the 2014 reading and math proficiency deadline is a step in the wrong direction. I applaud him for calling on Congress to amend NCLB; however, the waivers serve as band-aids and cannot be considered viable school reform. Many of NCLB's goals were unrealistic, but by shooting for the stars, it dreamt that our children would land somewhere in the clouds. Scaling back accountability at this juncture is tantamount to retreat, and guess who will be the collateral damage? Our children. Regardless of what anyone says, leaving states to their own devices is lowering accountability. In order to appease the federal government, states will put on yearly dog and pony shows in an effort to feign compliance.

Now I agree that NCLB should have been amended a long time ago, but that's Congress's cross to bear. With a major overhaul of its provisions, NCLB could have fostered genuine school reform in the U. S. However, proponents and opponents of the landmark bill were too pigheaded to compromise and in the end, who suffered? America's children. Both political parties know that NCLB has serious flaws, but neither has made a serious play to amend it. NCLB was primarily created to ensure that poor and minority students received a quality education. Most of the public outcry against NCLB was fixated on maintaining programs and paying adults, not on seeking the best way to educate our children and for that we should be ashamed.

Schools in the states that were granted waivers will not face the sanctions outlined in NCLB, but they will be subject to a range of interventions, which will be determined by the state itself. Essentially, leaving the states the latitude to deal with failing schools as they see fit. But what about the least among us? What about poor and minority students attending schools that may treat them like collateral damage and focus on "students who can learn?"

I do realize that the president is attempting to operate proactively in areas where congress has failed to act, but there has to be a better way. This move is supposed to give states "flexibility" and that's exactly what it does. It gives them the flexibility to do as they please; leaving poor and minority children behind. In the end, me and the president will have to agree to disagree. However, in spite of my reservations about his latest decision, I will be casting by ballot for him on November 6, 2012. Team Obama!

 
 
 

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