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Pioneer Editorial: Time to put NCLB on the agenda

Lawmakers' plates are full in Washington, D.C. -- especially now with health care reform front and center and under a pressured deadline by President Barack Obama to present him with a meaningful package this fall.

But another issue looms in the background that should be brought forward -- that of crafting a new way to measure the success of our nation's students.

The current No Child Left Behind Act has been a source of criticism from politicians and educators alike. Starting with good goals of raising the level of knowledge of every student, NCLB has instead bogged down schools, burdened educators and administrators and created meaningless results that attempt to place all children under one standard.

Students learn at different levels and different speeds, and NCLB fails to recognize that improvement from each and every child is more important that having all children reach the same set level through master tests.

Bemidji School District recently received its report of Adequate Yearly Progress, and some schools did well and others didn't. But do the results really indicate what goes on in our schools?

It's a given that some students will need more work. The district recognizes that, and this week decided to hire a full-time math teacher to work with seventh- and eighth-graders at the Middle School alternative learning program, a school that didn't make AYP for four years in special education reading proficiency and math in all areas.

But should the fact that some students don't progress according to AYP the fault of the system or simply because the student is at the top of his or her capability? And should those scores then pull down the whole school?

Testing is important, not only for accountability but also to chart a student's progress. But Congress needs to rewrite a new NCLB that recognizes the mistakes of the first edition and makes improvements to reflect modern-era learning and individual student progress.

Education is an important forward-looking tool to move our nation into a 21st century economy, and it deserves attention.