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A Publication of WTVP

It’s been well documented in this publication that the educational process is struggling, which already is causing an unfortunate gap in workforce quality in central Illinois and throughout the U.S. Although many people continue to live in denial, others are pro-actively trying to effect change: Workforce Network, Vision 2020, Talent Force 21, The Workforce and Education Committee, and full service community schools, to name a few.

At the national level, President Bush introduced Americans to a new buzz phrase and a new acronym in January 2002: No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There are actually four pillars of NCLB, but the most popular—the buzzword—is accountability and, more specifically, accountability to close the achievement gap between black students and white students.

The envelope, please. NCLB’s report card on this pillar was unveiled by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings July 14. The report that produced the data is so long that it’s now simply referred to as the Nation’s Report Card (full results can be found at nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard).

Snellings said, “Today’s Report Card is proof that No Child Left Behind is working—it is helping to raise the achievement of young students of every race and from every type of family background. And the achievement gap that has persisted for decades in the younger years between minorities and whites has shrunk to its smallest size in history.”

Before doubting her positive statement, note that while NCLB is new, the assessment process isn’t. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been administered using the same exact test in reading and mathematics for more than 30 years. Furthermore, the official annual data came from 28,000 schools across the country.

Perhaps the most brow-raising finding reveals that it’s the young black students who’ve made the most substantial gains, while older minority students did no better than they’ve done in previous decades. This clearly shows NCLB is having an impact but also identifies a different problem: older students whose education took place mostly under the old system were, well, somewhat left behind.

Perhaps that’s why the U.S. Secretary said, “I am pleased with today’s results, but in no way completely satisfied. We are at the beginning of the journey and certainly have room for improvement, particularly at the high school level. We must support older students with the same can-do attitude that helped their younger brothers and sisters.”

What can you do to avoid being one of the aforementioned citizens living in denial? Do precisely what NCLB is trying to do: build knowledge. For starters, log onto www.ed.gov/nclb so you know the NCLB’s four pillars.

Secondly, remember that kids are kids, regardless of the era. They want to be loved, they want to be accepted, and they want attention. They want to learn. So resist the easy path of letting your opinions form solely from the media. Step into a youth’s environment via a classroom or a ball field. By doing nothing, tomorrow’s workforce risks being left behind. IBI

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