Education plan acknowledges schools' unique situations.
Welcome news came recently in a move to set aside requirements of No Child Left Behind.
Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane DeBacker recently announced Kansas joined other states in being approved for a waiver from requirements of the federal NCLB law that calls for all schoolchildren to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The law and its one-size-fits-all approach to learning — one that doesn't best serve all students — has been a source of frustration for districts such as Garden City USD 457, where schools face unique challenges in educating a diverse student body.
It was all the more frustrating to see the local district show meaningful progress, yet still face sanctions because of the law's rigid and unrealistic requirements.
Last year, USD 457 reported achieving Adequate Yearly Progress status required by NCLB. The number of students who met or exceeded reading standards improved from 81.5 percent in 2010 to 84.5 percent in 2011. Math numbers increased from 79.2 percent to 81.3 percent meeting the standards. English Language Learner (ELL) students hitting the target were up from 74.4 percent to 78.5 percent.
Yet the district still was on corrective action. The waiver, in part, means that is no longer the case, and no schools will be designated as "on improvement" for the 2012-13 school year.
However, the waiver doesn't mean school districts get a pass moving forward. The accountability system for Kansas schools will transition from one focused on all students achieving proficiency on state math and reading assessments, to a system that recognizes student growth, closing the achievement gap and reducing the number of students below proficient.
Kansas and other states do indeed need such a growth model that's ambitious, yet with achievable goals.
Good education should be measured in more ways than standardized testing — and in more areas than reading and math. Science, social studies, music and drama, foreign languages and other areas of education matter, too.
Consider any change that steers away from the narrow focus of NCLB to a system that acknowledges school districts' unique challenges and meaningful accomplishments a step in the right direction.