Commentary: No Child Left Behind deserves a revamp

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

No one should be surprised with the news that the No Child Left Behind law hasn't narrowed the achievement gap between white and minority children in America's schools. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. Failure thus far, however, shouldn't mean that the law should be scrapped. To the contrary: The law should be revised, improved and, this time, properly funded.

Prior to former President George W. Bush's No Child initiative, the federal government played only a secondary role to the states on education. States provide most of the funding for education and, consequently, drive the education agenda. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Mr. Bush made education reform a major part of his campaign. He promised to end the ''soft bigotry'' of low expectations for minority students.

The No Child Left Behind law passed with bipartisan support in 2001. The focus of the law was testing and accountability. The goal was spelled out in an official description of the law: "An Act to Close the Achievement Gap."

Results of comprehensive national testing released last week show some increases in the test scores of young white and minority students since 2004, but the achievement gap has remained. In fact, Hispanic and black elementary and middle-school children made more progress in closing the gap during the 1970s and 1980s than with No Child initiatives. The performance of 17-year-olds from all groups – white, black and Hispanic – was even less impressive. These students performed at about the same as their counterparts who took the tests in the 1970s.

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