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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Federal academic goals unrealistic

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

"As I have said for years, some families simply put no emphasis on education."

When the dust settles from today's national elections, someone in the not-too-distant future will have to address the No Child Left Behind Act. This federal academic goal looks great on paper but in reality, it is doomed to failure. And there are a number of reasons the plan won't work.

The education reform was signed into law in 2002 with the goal of having all students proficient in reading, writing and math by 2014. But that's only the beginning.

Over the next four years, schools that have lagging students must begin offering tutoring services, teachers can be fired, states can take over districts and federal funds can be withheld. But the real test will come when thousands of school districts fail to reach specific levels. It's at that point when the program will change and the lofty goals be abandoned. That's my humble prediction.

At this stage in the new national standards, nearly one-third of all districts have failed to reach specific goals. It's honestly doubtful that there will be a massive change from that outcome. Many of the problem districts are those with high Hispanic populations. Since the tests are in English, those students with language difficulties are having problems reaching minimal standards. High minority districts are having similar experiences.

Here's what is likely to happen. Over the next several years, there will be a movement to fund every school district at the exact amount of funding. Currently, wealthy districts with high property values reap major tax benefits and can often provide more assistance to the students. Poor districts rely strictly on state and federal funds since their local tax base is small. As a result, funds available for these schools is limited.

But once all districts are closer to equal on a funding basis, I still believe there will be an achievement gap. And I believe that gap will always exist. As I have said for years, some families simply put no emphasis on education. In those districts, no amount of funding will change that basic premise.

We'll continue to try to raise the learning standards of all students. But it's a liberal dream that all students will ever achieve at a proficient level. It just will never happen. There will always be poverty, there will always be students who achieve at a faster rate than others and there will always be those who couldn't care less about educational success. To ignore these facts is to chase an unrealistic dream.

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