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NCLB In Your Face

No Child Left Behind Scores Are Irrelevant

Ohanian Comment: Three cheers for Cheryl Truman.

By No Child Left Behind standards, I should crawl into a corner and weep. My little corner of Lexington has some of the hardest-hit schools in our district: Deep Springs Elementary, Bryan Station Middle and Bryan Station Senior.

Yet I'm not planning on losing any sleep over the No Child Left Behind scores that were reported last week. Nor should you.

Much of the appeal of No Child Left Behind is that it's designed to be (1) alarming to schools and (2) soothing to parents: Your school is failing! (But none of it is your fault!) Take your kids, and run for sanctuary! (But don't make any effort to pinpoint just why your school is failing, or what you, as a parent, can do about it.)

It's an easy sell for parents who think they're just too busy to worry about their kids' schooling. Take your kid out of a "bad" school; put her in a "better" one. But don't let your concern lead you to attend site-based council meetings and ask tough questions. Don't haunt the counseling offices and ask for details about what courses your kid is taking, why more advanced courses aren't available, and which teachers are best. Don't become a thorn in the side of administrators.

The fallacy of NCLB is that it lets parents assume education will improve without their lifting a finger. It allows parents of children who are failing in one setting to simply pick up their problems and take them to another. But is a high school student who can't read well enough to follow an elementary text "fixed" by a simple change in scenery?

What NCLB should remind parents is that they have to know their schools down to the last molecule. Know what courses your kid needs, and raise Cain until she gets them. Go to teacher conferences. Drop in on classes. And don't be deterred when some school employees groan when they see you coming. When you're an advocate for your kids, you're not going to be everybody's best pal.

A school that's blowing No Child Left Behind mandates might have teachers who routinely change students' lives. No matter what the figures say, there's a teacher at Bryan Station Middle who is simply the best teacher and mentor I've ever met. There's a teacher at Bryan Station High who routinely smashes bureaucratic barriers to make sure my son gets the best education opportunities possible.

Are such people reflected in NCLB evaluations? No.

Have they made all the difference in my children's ability to achieve at high levels? Yes.

No Child Left Behind is the education version of national terror-alert levels: A tool of passing interest, a fine bit of propaganda. But should you use the No Child Left Behind brouhaha to make decisions about where your kids go to school?

Absolutely not.

Every kid deserves an advocate, someone who sees him or her as an individual with unique needs and gifts. NCLB doesn't guarantee that for any child. That's why NCLB is only a paper tiger.

Reach Cheryl Truman at (859) 231-3202 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3202, or ctruman@herald-leader.com.


Cheryl Truman, Herald-Leader


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