[Nameplate] Fair ~ 66°F  
High: 70°F ~ Low: 52°F
Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Behind the failure of education reform

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

With nary a whimper, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform law has all but slipped into history.

The controversial 2002 law was a well-intentioned plan to monitor teaching and school accountability. It established learning benchmarks for all schools in critical areas of education - reading, math and science.

But after nearly a decade of implementation, half of the schools in the country - including most in this area - were labeled as failures for falling short of the benchmarks.

Starting earlier this year, the Obama administration began granting waivers to states allowing them to opt out of the federal plan.

As of last week, 26 states had dropped NCLB. Ten more states have requested waivers. And soon, the law will be history.

So what went wrong?

For starters, the law was always unrealistic, naive and misguided.

For some odd reason, we seem to believe teacher skills are at the heart of education.

The reality - all too abundantly clear - is that parenting skills are at the heart of education.

States will now be free to implement their own programs to address student performance.

The Obama administration has acknowledged - rightfully so - that federally-forced, one-size-fits-all education plans simply don't work.

Apparently the same guiding principle on federal mandates does not apply to health insurance.

But why talk of hypocrisy now.

The failure of NCLB should not fall on the shoulders of schools that fell short of the unrealistic benchmarks.

Part of the blame falls on entrenched teachers' unions who consistently defend substandard teachers and put their union members' interest above the students.

But the bulk of the blame falls on parents who put no premium on education. Parents who shuffle their children off to school with inadequate preparation or reinforcement of the purpose and value of education.

And then, with this as a background, we expect schools to take this diverse student body and reach levels of achievement that were never possible.

Simply because everyone is created equal doesn't mean equal outcomes in education or life.

We pride ourselves as a nation of fighters. We fight hard to defend our country, our families and our way of life.

But we've lost the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty and now the War on Education.

The common thread on all three of these critical areas of society is strikingly similar - a lack of personal responsibility.

We can pass laws and mandates 'til the cows come in.

But education will not improve until parents improve.

Why don't we just be honest and accept this obvious reality?

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen