Under the act, schools with low graduation rates risk being designated as "failing." Schools can manipulate the figures with "push-outs," students who are pressured to leave school long before graduation in order to improve its statistics.
During the 2000-2001 school year, New York City schools graduated 34,000 students, while discharging 55,000 high school students. The discharges included students who moved away or transferred to private schools, but it is easy to hide thousands of "push-outs" in the "transfer" category.
The act allows transfers from schools designated as "persistently dangerous." The states can set the threshold for this label, but 44 states plus the District of Columbia have set the threshold so high that none of their schools fits the definition.
The six remaining states - New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas - have identified 52 schools as dangerous. That's just 52 out of the 90,000 U.S. public schools where 700,000 violent crimes took place in 2000, the last year for which statistics are available.
The vision of the No Child Left Behind Act is to close the gap between higher-achieving students and minorities. It is a noble goal, in President Bush's words, to end the "soft bigotry" of low expectations.
Yet it appears that no strategies introduced so far have done much to close that gap. The liberal solution is to throw more money at the problem, and billions of dollars have been spent through the Title I program.
A new study by the American Enterprise Institute called "Closing the Education Gap: Is Title I Working?" compared the scores of individual Title I students with the scores of similar students who did not receive Title I benefits. The researchers found no evidence that Title I programs had improved the recipients' academic performance.
Despite a 20-year record of failure, Title I funding was reauthorized in the act. Federal spending on education has grown by $11 billion since Bush took office.
The tests mandated by the act have ripped back the curtain and exposed a major national problem. How about trying some innovative solutions to introduce competition into the monopoly system, such as giving parents choice over which courses and which teachers they want for their children?
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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