By The Times Editorial Board
The pendulum of American public education policy is swinging back, away from the stiff reform agenda of the past decade and a half. And the reformers themselves bear a share of the responsibility for the backlash. The No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress in 2001, will no doubt be remembered as one of the worst-constructed laws of the century.
Congress is finally near agreement on the rewrite of No Child Left Behind, which is now in conference committee. The anticipated new version would continue to require annual testing from third through eights grade, and once more in high school. But states would be left to set standards and to determine how to intervene at schools where students weren't achieving, as long as they at least took action to improve schools in the bottom 5% of their ratings and high schools where less than two-thirds of students were graduating. Under current law, schools failing to meet the standards face the possibility of mass firings, takeover by a charter school or, in California, "parent trigger" petitions.