Ohio is joining the parade of states seeking exemptions from the federal No Child Left Behind school improvement law. Buckeye State residents should insist the state's substitute plan be better than NCLB.
Among major complaints about the federal rules, in effect for about a decade, was that - according to many educators - too much emphasis was placed on the results of standardized tests. That may be true, though it is clear some yardstick needs to be devised to ensure schools are performing adequately.
NCLB was a dismal failure in its signature goal of ensuring all children, not just the bright ones from good socio-economic backgrounds, learn. It appears Ohio's replacement plan retains that emphasis, as it should.
One of the state's proposals is to require that schools reduce the achievement gaps among various classes of students, including those of different socio-economic and racial backgrounds.
Clearly, that must be part of the state plan. The gigantic achievement gap separating some groups of students is intolerable.
For example, African-American students score very low on many standardized tests, compared to their white peers. The results of the May 2011 round of Ohio Graduation Tests make that clear.
Among public school 10th graders taking the mathematics section of the test, 87.9 percent of white students received "proficient" scores. Just 60.8 percent of African-American students scored that well. In reading, there was a gap of 20 percentage points between African-American and white students.
In non-public schools, gaps tend to be narrower, but they still exist. For example, for 10th graders in non-public schools, the average mathematics score in May 2011 was 95.8 percent proficient for whites and 79.5 percent for African-Americans.
Again, NCLB was an expensive, aggravating flop. That does not mean the law's goal was not a worthwhile one, however. To the contrary, Ohio's state school improvement plan needs to have the same focus - with better, more realistic strategies for implementation.