Changes to No Child Left Behind are headed in the right direction

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements are giving way to individualized plans for education standards in 10 states with more following close behind. On Feb. 9 the Obama administration offered the waivers in exchange for states forming their own standards and education reform plans, which will not have to meet the 2014 deadline of NCLB. This change couldn’t have come soon enough.

Don’t get me wrong, the intention behind NCLB is valuable, but let’s be real. Considering Valentine’s Day has come and gone, how often does “it’s the thought that counts” make for real results? Not that often. NCLB set goals that our country absolutely should be working toward. The problem is making these goals actually happen.

The United States is rapidly losing international ground in terms of comparative education. A 2010 Huffington Post article reported that American education is at or below average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development rankings. Uncle Sam is taking a big hit in scores. On a scale that ranges 0-1000, the U.S. received 487 in math, 502 in science and 500 in reading.

The U.S. is barely clinging to its past position as world leader. Multiple factors have played a part in its decline but a large part of this drop is due to education. Even considering this in very simplified terms presents some concerns – the younger generations are the nation’s future. These are the people that will grow up to lead the country, for better or for worse. Declining educational scores do not paint a very optimistic future.

In broad terms, NCLB sought to raise the national educational standard by setting goals every school should achieve by 2014. That’s all well and good but the fact that new legislation is developing against NCLB standards proves this isn’t a realistic goal.

The U.S. is struggling to drag itself out of an economic downspin. Among the many repercussions of this is a negative impact on education funding. Many schools simply don’t have the money they need to operate effectively. Supplies, teachers and upkeep are heavy monetary demands that are not always being met.

This is why change is needed. Former President George W. Bush first introduced the idea of NCLB in 2001. Eleven years later, the nation is still struggling to meet those goals. The system had many benefits but its basis in standardized test scores was so limiting it labeled thousands of schools as failing.

In October 2011, the Senate education committee voted for a bipartisan bill to dissemble NCLB. Now, that has developed into the individualized standards that are being decided by state. The Obama administration is far from abandoning progressive goals; they are working with each state to develop standards to advance educational goals while remaining manageable.

Clearly the blanket solution solved little. The U.S. is a large, diverse country that needs more attention than a “one-size-fits-all” resolution. It will take time but setting specific state standards is a step in the right direction.