Our view: Not time to panic; time to improve

By now, most parents with children in local school districts who care how their schools are performing are aware of the flaws in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

While its intentions were good, NCLB’s requirement that schools meet progressively higher goals on standardized testing until all classes and subgroups achieve 100 percent of the national standards by 2014 is unrealistic.

A school is listed as failing under NCLB standards, for example, if a subset of English-as-second-language students, or students with learning disabilities, doesn’t meet the standards.

In McHenry County, 70 of 99 schools did not make adequate yearly progress under NCLB guidelines. That’s up from 62 schools that didn’t make adequate progress in 2011, but this year’s standards also are higher.

Does the results of this year’s school report cards mean that 70 percent of our schools are failing to adequately educate our students?

Hardly.

As reporter Stephen DiBenedetto noted in a story Wednesday, Crystal Lake-based School District 47 didn’t make adequately yearly progress as a district, and seven of its 12 schools also are listed as failing. This is despite the fact that District 47 had the second-highest area average in the Illinois Standards Achievement Test in math with 93.6 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards, and a leading average in reading with 88.9 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

Based on District 47’s overall numbers, it is doing an outstanding job when compared to other districts across the state.

But because certain subgroups of students didn’t make adequate progress, the entire school and district is listed as failing.

We and newspaper Editorial Board across the country have urged Congress to fix these unreasonable standards in NCLB, but to no avail.

While we don’t think results released this week are reason for local parents to panic, we also recognize that there is room for improvement.

The data show that far too many local high school students, for example, read below their grade level. In some county schools, fewer than half of 11th-graders met state reading standards. That’s poor performance.

We expect that area schools will learn from this year’s results, and work to make significant improvements.

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