NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Power of Accountability

December 5, 2003

Some 100 black and Latino school superintendents have signed a petition by the Education Trust, a school-reform group, embracing the accountability rules of the new federal school-performance law, the No Child Left Behind Act. The superintendents understand that without new mandates requiring schools to identify and help struggling children, the problems of school districts will become invisible, says USA Today.

Critics of the law, such as the National Education Association, the powerful teachers union, are trying to stir up opposition from educators and Democratic presidential candidates. But a victory for them would strip superintendents of the outside pressure needed to find better-qualified teachers, adopt more effective curriculums and educate children who in the past were allowed to fail.

Critics' arguments against raising standards and holding educators accountable don't stand up. Among them:

  • There's no money to support reform: The federal funding of poor schools has grown 33 percent during the past two years.
  • The reform goals are unrealistic: The law demands that by 2014, all children must score as "proficient" learners on state tests; most educators agree that the ambitious goal probably won't be met, but it is worth striving for -- extending the deadline now would slow down the pace of school reform.
  • The law relies on one-size-fits-all testing: In fact, the tests that critics revile identify the children whom teachers are failing to reach.

The new federal accountability law is neither perfect nor funded as well as it should be. Even so, minority superintendents know that it may be their students' best hope, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "School-Reform Critics Ignore Power of Accountability," USA Today, December 4, 2003.

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