Ocean City Elementary Makes Case for Fewer Excuses, More Parental Power

One of the most common critiques of No Child Left Behind is that its goal of achieving proficiency in reading and math for all students by 2014 is impossible to achieve. While it may be impossible for all American public schools to achieve the 100 percent proficiency marks, should we let that excuse stop many schools from achieving 100 percent proficiency, schools that really are able to get there?

The Washington Post highlights a Maryland elementary school that already has hit the mark:

Last spring, all 184 students in the third and fourth grades at Ocean City Elementary School passed the Maryland School Assessment, or MSA, a battery of tests given by the state every year since 2003 to satisfy the law.

The school was the first in the state, apart from a few tiny special-education centers, to meet the goal that has defined public education this decade.

“We think of MSA as the floor, as sort of the basics of what all students should be doing,” Principal Irene Kordick said. “We shoot for the ceiling.”…

The school serves 568 students in a coastal resort town with an odd mix of families — in oceanfront condominiums, middle-class colonials and Coastal Highway trailers. The student population is 89 percent white, 5 percent Hispanic, 3 percent black, 2 percent Asian and 1 percent American Indian. Twenty-nine students have limited English proficiency, and 134 qualify for subsidized meals because of low family income.

If you read the story, you get a strong sense of some of the things school leaders have done to make its performance exceptional. Yet with all the tax money funding K-12 education, Jonathan Butcher at Jay Greene’s blog points out wasteful examples of federal education spending, and the absence of focus on replicating school models, like Ocean City, that work.

I guess the moral of the story is that kids like me deserve schools that make fewer excuses, and parents deserve the power of choice to demand these kinds of schools to serve them. After all, as our own Pam Benigno wrote several years ago, No Child Left Behind Mandates School Choice. But if you leave it up to politicians to fund education programs, the money is going to feed all sorts of crazy pet projects before it reaches places that work.