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What No Child Left Behind got right

To the editor: The editorial calling No Child Left Behind (NCLB) "one of the worst constructed laws of the century" ignores the substantial bipartisan work that led to this act. Similarly, civil rights leaders and the business community backed it. They still do, agreeing on such fundamentals as giving students annual, independent tests. ("Finding the sweet spot of reason in evaluating schools and teachers," editorial, Nov. 27)

Your editorial notes those exams have brought critical information to public attention, especially about underperforming students. As a result, many students progressed during the peak of NCLB's enforcement.

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Hispanic fourth-graders showed a gain of two grades in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 1999-2008. African American fourth-graders showed similar improvement.

The editorial, however, criticizes NCLB for measuring whether students are proficient in a subject as opposed to growing in their grasp of it. I would hope all of us want every child mastering subjects like reading and math. But, for the record, Margaret Spellings, as Education secretary from 2005-09, allowed states to measure for growth instead of proficiency as long as students were making progress.

Yes, NCLB needs updating, and I agree students need helpful interventions. That was one of the driving purposes behind the law's call for transparency and accountability.

Tracy Young, Dallas

The writer is director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute.

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