Here’s an interesting education tidbit from Big Sky Country: Montana’s Superintendent wrote U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week, “saying she would not raise the state’s target test scores to meet benchmarks for No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the national education overhaul.”
The state barely missed making “average grade-level competency” this year under NCLB, but next year the requirements jump roughly another 10 points and, apparently, Denise Juneau doesn’t think the trouble is worth it.
Those earlier notes on test scores might make Montana students look poor, but the most recent scores from the best nationwide test, The National Assessment of Educational Progress, puts them above the national average on every measure. This means a whole bunch of other states will have it worse than Montana next year. (Makes me wonder if Arne Duncan will start granting waivers on NCLB, ObamaCare style.)
Montana joins Texas in seeming to enjoy occasionally telling the federal government to take a hike. Its “as fast as reasonable and prudent” highway speed “limits” were the last to go once the federal government started tying highway dollars to 70 MPH or smaller limits. Many state superintendents, teachers, and administrators have complained about NCLB, but Juneau is the first to take direct action defying the government on its mandates in exchange for federal education dollars.
Juneau wrote in an April 25 letter to Duncan that Montana schools are “reeling” from the additional data collection and uncertainty created by the changing priorities set by No Child Left Behind and the Obama administration’s new education goals.
“(W)e need some alleviation of the strict across-the-board, one-size-fits-all, absolute bar of 100 percent proficiency on state assessments,” Juneau wrote. “You understand that the unrealistic 100 percent goal undermines the work and morale of students and educators and the public’s confidence in schools.”
Here, Juneau seems to understand in spades that federal mandates and micromanagement create disaster for local and state schools. The weird thing? She also wants the state to adapt Common Core standards, which may be on the verge of also becoming national mandates, with the same detriments.
At least, at this point, the Common Core is voluntary. No Child Left Behind? Only if you’ve got a brave state superintendent. Wonder what happens to her next.