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Fairness in our schools

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opinion Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

In 2001, when the No Child Left Behind Act became law under President George W. Bush, Disney released an animated movie that also dealt with education reform.

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In “Recess: School’s Out,” a disgraced former national education secretary hatches a plot to raise test scores across the nation. By using a tractor beam to adjust the moon’s orbit, he’ll change the climate in the United States, eliminating summer — and summer vacation. The extra time in school, he reasons, will help the nation compete with cold-weather nations such as Finland and Iceland, which have the highest student test scores in the world.

In real life, of course, NCLB has caused states and school districts across the country to employ a variety of measures to raise test scores and remain in compliance with NCLB’s ever-rising standards. 

And then there’s what happened in Atlanta’s public schools. Recently, Georgia’s governor’s office released a report indicating that since 2001, more than 200 teachers and administrators from 58 schools have been directly involved in cheating on standardized tests. Simply put, district employees were erasing students’ wrong answers and filling in the correct dots, thus creating the illusion that Atlanta’s public schools were doing a great job. Dozens of teachers and principals have resigned, as has Atlanta’s superintendent of schools.

Recently, however, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made an announcement that might signal the beginning of the end of NCLB as we know it. With Congress having failed to reform or replace No Child Left Behind, Duncan says he’ll introduce a waiver system, available to all 50 states, that should allow relief from most of the law’s mandates, including the “failing school” designation that can result in teachers being fired and schools being permanently closed.

Gov. Dayton immediately announced that Minnesota will seek a waiver, and this is definitely a good move.

 — Post-Bulletin, Rochester

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