Say what you will about the No Child Left Behind federal education law — and plenty has been said by folks on all sides. The law promoted two important ideas: that schools should be held accountable for verifiable progress by students, and that kids trapped in failing schools should have the choice to escape for a better education elsewhere.
In that light, Georgia’s request to be exempted from key parts of the law offers a big step forward on measuring achievement, and a small but significant step backward on choice.
The biggest problems with No Child Left Behind were two-fold. First, it was a top-down, federal intrusion into education policy, which ought to be a state responsibility.
Second, it put all the achievement emphasis on a single test. In Georgia’s case, that test managed both to lack rigor and to leave unscrupulous educators room to cheat to ensure their classes made the crucial Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
After schools in Atlanta and Dougherty County were