Be careful Missouri, the feds are watching. Well, actually it should come as no surprise. The U.S. Department of Education this week issued their report on Missouri schools and warned - as it did in every other state - that problem schools must be monitored more closely or uncomfortable changes were coming.
Every three years, the feds check to assure that states are keeping track of problem school districts. Missouri has about 200 schools in 167 districts that fall below the testing minimum. And Missouri was told to keep better track of those schools that are lagging behind.
At the center of this whole debate is the controversial No Child Left Behind law approved by the federal government. In that law, schools must improve test scores annually until the year 2014 when all students in all categories should be achieving at a certain level. I have long argued the law is impossible to follow because some subgroups of students will probably never achieve these mandated levels.
The state was criticized the most for not forcing changes early in the process when schools failed to reach certain testing benchmarks. That process for failing schools begins with tutoring and transfers and could lead to restructuring where schools must shut down and start over with new leaders.
The federal report wants to know why Missouri has not taken the steps to address these problem schools.
Let me save the feds a lot of time and effort and answer for the proud state of Missouri. Our fine state has spent precious and limited resources trying to assure that all students succeed. But as in life, some simply will never reach that level. We could opine all day long on why we believe this is true but suffice it to say, we think the federal goals are noble but doomed to fail.
Like all states who depend on federal dollars (by the way, those are our tax dollars), we will spend extra time and effort on those students who lag behind. We will provide more money, better teachers, smaller class sizes and specialized teaching for those in need. We'll do this first, because it's the right thing to do. But we'll do this also because we need those federal dollars.
All we expect is an apology somewhere down the road when you fine folk in Washington recognize that this program is doomed to failure. We know that you will never admit your failures and never acknowledge that the lack of parental guidance is the key reason for this failure. But for now, we'll play the game. Just don't expect us to someday forget who set the rules for this game.