Other Views: When a waiver isn’t a waiverNo Child Left Behind took Americans to school and taught us our schools, teachers and students are failing. The proof, we are told, can be found in the results of standardized tests. This is despite that North Dakotans take pride in their schools, believing they do a good job.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
No Child Left Behind took Americans to school and taught us our schools, teachers and students are failing. The proof, we are told, can be found in the results of standardized tests. This is despite that North Dakotans take pride in their schools, believing they do a good job.
When the Obama administration gave states the opportunity to get a waiver from the K-12 education mandate, the Tribune editorial board and many North Dakotans wanted the state to opt out of No Child Left Behind. The result is one of those life lessons: “Watch out for what you wish for.” The waiver wasn’t what many people thought or assumed it would be.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler did the right thing this week when she withdrew North Dakota’s application for a waiver from No Child Left Behind. Her action was supported by an unlikely coalition made up of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, North Dakota School Boards Association and the North Dakota Education Association.
“The further we progressed through the waiver process, the more we felt we were being asked to adopt another national one-size-fits-all model of education,” Baesler said. The waiver process for North Dakota represented 18 months of study and give-and-take with the U.S. Department of Education. It was not knee-jerk by any definition.
The state will continue to operate under the existing law and, Baesler said, her department will work with the congressional delegation to get that law renewed with changes that make it more useful and effective.
North Dakota’s schools can and should improve. To take issue with No Child Left Behind is not to disagree with its intent, which was to improve education for all students. It was an initiative of then-President George W. Bush, and Congress has continued to extend the life of the initiative without making practical reforms.
A key disagreement with the DOE was over the number of nonproficient students to be reduced over time. North Dakota officials agreed they could reduce those numbers by 25 percent over six years, while the feds wanted a 50-percent reduction. It comes down to setting “sound, reasonable and achievable” goals based on local knowledge, Baesler said.
North Dakotans are proud of their schools, but the state’s citizens are not blind to the needs for improved education. We would, however, prefer to do it on our own terms.