- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

Sadly, a recent report by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) makes it clear that D.C. schools are still woefully inadequate. According to ECS, for the second consecutive year, almost half of D.C. Public Schools failed to make “adequate yearly progress” under provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.

NCLB provides that students whose schools fail to make adequate yearly progress — as determined by student reading levels, mathematics tests results and other factors — can transfer to another public school or a charter school. The problem is, since 68 of 149 schools in the District failed to make the required progress in reading and math for the second year in a row, there’s simply not enough room to grant transfers to all the students who have a right to do so. Considering the fact that the District already buses many of its special-education students outside the city, the bottomline is that the city fails its own educational mandate for nearly half of the capital’s 64,000 students.

NCLB also pushes school officials to provide safe and secure schools. Just yesterday, we pointed out the troubling issue of safety in Baltimore public schools. Baltimore schools are academically deficient, too. While only 14 percent of schools statewide failed to meet their progress requirements for the second year in a row, in Baltimore, 46 percent of schools didn’t make the grade. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley tried to blame state officials, including Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

Mr. O’Malley, who has gubernatorial aspirations, must stop making excuses and begin to address the issues at hand. So, too, must Mr. Williams. The two Democratic mayors must push for more engaging discussions on quality of education.

Although D.C. and Baltimore schools are a paradigm of ineducation gone awry, federal education officials say state reports reveal a quarter of America’s public schools failed to meet their progress requirements last year. NCLB provides options that ordinarily would not be available. The D.C. and Baltimore school systems, which serve mostly minority and lower-income students, point to the need for still more choice and more accountability.

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