One of the reasons American primary and secondary public education is in such dire straits is that even poorly-conceived programs -- like No Child Left Behind -- designed to hold teachers and bueaucrats accountable are never enforced because the federal government is scared to rock the boat. NCLB isn't perfect, but it does have some teeth that can be applied to failing school districts, if the Secretary of Education had the guts.

In LAUSD, there are over 300,000 children in schools the state has declared failing under NCLB's requirements for adequate yearly progress. Under the law, such children must be provided opportunities to transfer to better-performing schools within the district. To date, fewer than two out of every 1,000 eligible children have transferred--much lower even than the paltry 1% transfer figure nationwide. In neighboring Compton, whose schools are a disaster, the number of families transferring their children to better schools is a whopping zero.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings--whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda--will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action. In L.A., the district has squelched school choice for children in failing schools by evading deadlines for notifying families of their transfer options; burying information in bureaucratese; and encouraging families to accept after-school supplemental services (often provided by the same district employees who fail to get the job done during the regular school day) rather than transfers. Still, the district insists that the reason for the low transfer numbers is that parents don't want their kids to leave failing schools.

That explanation rings false because, well, it is. The Polling Company surveyed Los Angeles and Compton parents whose children are eligible to transfer their children out of failing schools. Only 11% knew their school was rated as failing, and fewer than one-fifth of those parents (just nine out of 409 surveyed) recalled receiving notice to that effect from the districts--a key NCLB requirement. Once informed of their schools' status and their transfer rights, 82% expressed a desire to move their children to better schools.

Public education in the Los Angeles area is a joke, which is why my mom, who sits on a non-unified school district board (meaning they don't have a high school) pays a fortune to send my younger brothers to a private high school. Federal money is wasted when the strings attached to it remain unpulled; better to let California schools fail on their own than to pour federal taxpayer money down that black hole.



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