The following are excerpts from a recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune by Rep. Barb Sykora, chair of the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee:
"The debate over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is so fraught with misinformation and over-the-top rhetoric that I feel compelled to address the issue. NCLB was passed as a means to increase public school accountability, close the achievement gap between minority students and white students, and improve student performance. Unfortunately, the NCLB debate has descended into political posturing and a forum to throw cheap shots at President Bush and state Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke; the opportunities presented by NCLB are being ignored."
"Why this 'sudden' call for accountability from Uncle Sam? Since 1965, the federal government has spent more than $242 billion to help disadvantaged children in America's public school classrooms. Yet the achievement gap between white and minority students remains wide.
"In Minnesota, as students enter high school, white students are functioning at the eighth-grade level, where they should be, while black students, as a group, are functioning at the level of fourth-graders. That's an embarrassment to our state. But what's even more embarrassing is that our state never has been held accountable for the federal dollars we receive to address this issue."
"I'm tired of constantly hearing only the negatives about NCLB in media reports and from some elected officials. While it's true NCLB sets high standards for schools, teachers and children, don't we want our students to reach their full potential, regardless of racial, economic and ethnic background?
"For almost 40 years, our state has had federal funds to spend as we saw fit to help increase the performance of disadvantaged children in our classrooms. We accomplished very little with those funds. Just as the state wants accountability for the dollars it sends to schools, the federal government wants accountability for the dollars it sends to the state.
"I hear many, many complaints voiced about the expectations and structure of NCLB, but I have yet to hear any other solution to the problems Minnesota schools and our children are facing. NCLB provides hope for minority students throughout our state. [It] shows that we -- as legislators, educators and parents -- will take the steps necessary to ensure that all children get the level of education necessary to achieve the American dream."
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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
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