10/28/2011 10:58 am ET Updated Dec 28, 2011

The Times Has It Right on ESEA Renewal: Just Say No!

The New York Times editorial page has been a remarkably consistent and clear voice on behalf of smart education reform -- and today it stays the course with a sensible critique of the Tom Harkin (Democrat of Ohio) and Mike Enzi (Republican of Wyoming) proposal to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (lately known as No Child Left Behind). The Harkin-Enzi bill is a compromise that Thomas Fordham VP Mike Petrilli says is "a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that should alarm folks on the right and the left" (See here. Also, don't miss the all-day event on 21st century governance on December 1, sponsored by Fordham and the Center for American Progress.)

Advises the Times: "go back to the drawing board."

The editorial does the requisite bowing and scraping before the flaws in No Child Left Behind, but it does not forget the law's remarkably radical attempt to fix a broken American education system: forcing schools to be accountable for educating all children. Yes, folks, teeth can be discomfiting.

The Times supports the Obama Administration waiver plan because it "would allow states to be rated on student growth" and rightly also requires that waiver applicants "set goals for all schools and plan for closing achievement gaps."

The Harkin-Enzi bill "lowers the bar," says the Times, and "backs away from requiring states to have clear student achievement targets for all schools."

It is past time to fix NCLB -- but it is not the time for retreat on the need to raise standards and hold educators accountable for student performance.

This post originally appeared on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog.