By DAVID GREEN
Michigan school administrators could soon be in a real jam. First came the blow from Washington. Now comes a second hit from Lansing.
The federal No Child Left Behind act took an unusually deep excursion into local school control by placing several requirements on districts across the country. Critics have faulted the program for the lack of funding to cover the cost of required changes, for too much emphasis on a narrow curriculum, for packaging over content, for top-down mandates, for too little focus on the social causes of poor academic achievement, and on and on.
Testing requirements will set some districts up for failure, critics say, as the act has more of a punitive tone than one that works toward building upward.
Then comes the proposal for new core curriculum guidelines, imposed at the state level. Start with the federal testing regime, add the need to work more core classes into the curriculum, and administrators will face an extreme challenge.
The new state requirements would clearly raise the academic bar for Michigan students, and that’s a good thing. Forcing it onto districts for the next school year is not. Even making the change for 2007 might be somewhat of a rush.
The proposal leaves so many details to work out, from the future of Vo-Tech to the preparation of all students—all students—for algebra II and chemistry. Will classes be “dumbed-down” to prevent graduation rates from declining? Will this cause a new problem with an increasing rate of drop-outs?
Higher academic standards are good, but state board of education members must help districts work in the changes gradually. A sudden change is not the solution to Michigan’s academic standing.– January 25, 2006