The high pressure ridge over California continues to create beautiful warm daytime weather in January. For most of the United States, the west coast winter weather is postcard perfect. But not in California where fears of continued drought conditions pervade. In the short term, it’s wonderful weather but there is a deep-seated awareness that today’s pleasures will bring tomorrow’s pain. We need rain. Pure and simple.
Just as the feel-good weather portends a more serious problem, so does the feeling that the sunsetting of No Child Left Behind will bring relief. There is much talk about reducing or eliminating annual standardized testing as the members of Congress discuss options. While NCLB had many unintended consequences, it clearly gave attention to underperforming student subgroups.
California students of poverty scored twenty percentage points below the average of all students in reading literacy by the end of third grade. With all students demonstrating a statewide average of just under 50%, economically disadvantaged and English learners disproportionally bore the brunt of this shortcoming. Issues of truancy, drop-outs, and not being prepared for life after high school reflect the urgency of the situation. State District Attorney Kamala Harris’s office released evidence of the impact of truancy and absenteeism in schools adding to the view that results of undereducating our youth are easily seen.
Often with limited political capital, parents of these students rely more so on the schools to effectively educate their children. Challenges associated with poverty and not having English as a first language impact parents options to participate in their children’s schools.
Legislation that requires attention to the results of underperforming students serves to level the playing field. The larger perspective of state or federal legislation can set policy that local communities are unable to enact either due to a lack of resources or political resolve. In the end, the attention given to the education of underperforming students will bring direct results that will improve long term outcomes.
NCLB deserves to be retired but not without a plan for supporting out neediest students. In other words, despite the beautiful California winter weather, pay attention to saving water for a lack of good stewardship can bring grave consequences.