The No Child Left Behind Act's fatal flaw

July 28, 2011

Thank you for drawing attention to the flaws of the No Child Left Behind Act ("A failing law," July 19). After years of reading about the inadequacies of the public school system, it was refreshing to read an editorial that acknowledged "the faulty way the law was constructed" as a significant factor in how many schools are now labeled failing.

I am wondering what took so long? Teachers who have spent the last 10 years chasing the laudable but impossible standard of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 have seen this moment coming since the law's inception. From experience we know that no matter how good we may become at our craft, there will always be a few students we may not be able to reach, despite our best efforts.

That there is no one size fits all where progress is concerned. Unfortunately, those who dare to voice their concerns publicly, if they are heard at all, are often dismissed as lacking the skills to reach their students or are accused of lacking faith in their students' ability to achieve.

Yet it's not hard to figure out that in a system that demands 100 percent proficiency, it takes only one student out of hundreds or even thousands to miss the mark for the entire school to be declared failing, regardless of the success of all the others.

The Sun calls for "a more rational and balanced approach to measuring educational progress." Balanced, yes. But I'm not convinced that more "rational" is what we need. Let's start by recognizing that education is less about attaining perfection and more about creating possibilities.

Let's put the heart back into a system that seems to have sold its soul to the relentless pursuit of perfect test scores. And then let's listen to some of our master teachers for a change. I'm pretty sure they could tell you what is needed.

Valerie Heller, Ellicott City

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