Opt-out is wise

Published 11:51 am Friday, August 12, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

Minnesota is wise to join many other states in seeking permission to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind law. While the intent of NCLB was good, it has become clear that imposing educational standards at the federal level is not an effective method of improving education nationwide.

Once upon a time, it was up to individual school districts and communities to set their own standards for education. That worked well enough in a pre-technology age when knowing how to read, write and do basic math, coupled with a working knowledge of history, set young people up for success. Today, the requirements for success are sterner. But trying to manage the process of education from Washington makes little sense. For starters, nothing managed from Washington is particularly efficient or successful. In the case of NCLB, addressing the complex and controversial issue of achievement testing with a blanket federal law seems particularly unlikely to produce good results.

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Of course, if federal oversight is not the answer, and local control is not the answer, that places the onus directly on the states. And as Minnesota opts out of NCLB, it will take on not only greater freedom to manage education but also greater responsibility. Among other things, we hope that will mean professional and open management of achievement testing and student assessment standards — specifically, not leaving those difficult subjects in the hands of politically motivated lawmakers.

We believe it is possible, even likely, that Minnesota can do a better job of educating its children without the help of NCLB, as long as that task does not become mired in political arguments.