The following are excerpts from an editorial yesterday in The Grand Rapids Press arguing that No Child Left Behind is the reason schools in Michigan are improving:
"For anyone discouraged by recent years' troubles in Michigan's public schools, the state's latest report cards come as a welcome tonic. They show a sharp improvement in schools and students meeting federal progress standards for reading and math. The record is a credit to educators at state and local levels, and a confirmation that Lansing and Washington authorities are on the right track in pushing for better progress from schools and more options for parents when schools fall short. Among highlights:
- 710 Michigan elementary and middle schools received A's on state report cards, up from 291 last year; 1,168 schools got B's, up from 818.
- The share of Michigan schools making 'adequate yearly progress' under the federal No Child Left Behind act rose from 76 to 80 percent.
- 121 schools that last year were on the federal watch or high-priority sanctions lists moved up to adequate yearly progress for 2004.
"The Grand Rapids area is a full partner in that progress, with many schools raising their grades. Most heartening are 10 schools -- nine in Kent County, one in Ottawa -- where students' reading and math scores last year were on the federal watch list but this year climbed past the adequate progress threshold. The gains accompany such changes as overhauls of curriculum, more focused teacher training, staff changes and, in some cases, replacing administrators. Schools also have used federally-funded tutors to work with children and their parents, both to help with lessons and to coach on study habits and how to make the home a good learning environment.
"The Grand Rapids Public Schools, with 19 schools in various stages of the federal 'need improvement' list, have a broad and aggressive program fitted to each low-performing school. Parents are being called upon to be in the schools and get involved. Teachers are putting in more hours, including for added training and a new emphasis on measuring students' progress, checking their needs and adjusting teaching accordingly. Whereas assessments in the past may have been done yearly, the new way is monthly."
"[T]he big difference is the No Child Left Behind law and the schedule of expectations and sanctions it imposes. Schools not meeting standards become subject to increasingly rigorous reform mandates -- ranging from offering students transportation to another school to developing improvement plans, extending the school year, replacing the staff, installing new curriculums and changing school management."
"Annual federal education spending has risen by $13 billion, or 32 percent, to $55.6 billion since adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act three years ago. Continued increases will be needed and will be deserved as schools improve. But the main elements in the Michigan advance haven't been achieved through money but with openness to new ideas, willingness to change, hard work and the knowledge that the status quo isn't good enough -- not for the schools, not for the children and not for future of this state."
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