Liverman right to be wary of offer

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

Suffolk School Superintendent Milton R. Liverman is right to ask the school board to balk at taking $3.5 million in federal money because the price is potentially too high.

The money is apparently available if the Suffolk School System chooses to implement the No Child Left Behind school accountability law. This rule demands visibly yearly progress in standardized test scores for up to 35 subgroups. According to a story from the Associated Press, that $3.5 million only makes up about 3.4 percent of the system’s $102 million operating budget – a drop in the bucket, from our perspective.

Understandably, one might counter that the school system needs all the money it can get.

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Point taken. But should the school division risk punishment from the federal government if Suffolk students don’t measure up to someone else’s standards – standards that are potentially subjective and open to loose interpretation?

For example, in that same wire story: &uot;Almost three-quarters of Suffolk’s 18 schools are expected to have reached full state accreditation or climbed within 5 percentage points of it, three years before a state deadline. The same test results analyzed in a different way show 44 percent of the schools failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards this year.&uot;

Liverman was quoted as saying, &uot;That’s a major morale defeat for these folks. You work hard, you achieve benchmarks that for five years you’ve been told to meet, and all of a sudden: Bam! …You’re told you’re a failure.”

Further, why should any Virginia school division give up its right and methods of improving teaching and learning?

Also, when would Suffolk actually see any of this cash? What guarantees are in place that any school division would get it?

Suffolk would fare much better if its school administration worked more effectively with faculty and parents to ensure a better education for the students. Grasping for money won’t automatically make a child smarter.