Education policy 教育政策 Final exam期终考试
As elections loom, Barack Obama tries to reform America’s schools
AMERICA’S schools are dotted with stories of progress. In December your correspondent watched a class of seven-year-olds on Chicago’s poor West Side. As Mauricia Dantes, a consultant for IBM before she retrained as a teacher, led the pupils in a discussion about the deaf-and-blind author Helen Keller, one small girl declared: “I feel like I’m in college.” One day, thanks to Ms Dantes and other teachers, she may be.
美国的学校系统里不乏一些可圈可点的先进事迹。去年12月份，我们的记者在芝加哥欠发达的西区旁听了一节七年级课程。当毛里西噢-邓蒂斯（Mauricia Dantes）教师（之前是IBM的一名咨询员）引导学生们围绕聋哑作家海伦·凯勒（Helen Keller）展开讨论时，一个小女孩大声说：“我感觉自己像在大学里。”感谢邓蒂斯女士和其它教师，有一天她可能真的会到那里。
Barack Obama wants such scenes to be the rule rather than the exception. The question is what the federal government can do to help. Ten years ago Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a bold effort to improve America’s schools. On March 14th Mr Obama announced that he wants to pass a new version by August. It could be one of his most important feats. But it will not be easy.
巴拉克-奥巴马希望这样的场景成为常例，而非特例。问题是联邦政府能提供怎样的帮助。十年前，国会通过了《不让一个孩子掉队法》（No Child Left Behind Act，NCLB）——一项旨在改进美国学校系统的大胆举措。3月14日，奥巴马先生宣布他想在8月份前通过一个新版本。虽然这有可能成为他执政期间最重要的成就之一，但是实现起来将不会轻松。
The main problem is that politicians still disagree on Washington’s role in education. The federal government provides less than 10% of the money schools spend. But NCLB, the most recent incarnation of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, gave the federal government unprecedented influence. States must set standards of achievement. Schools that fail to make progress face sanctions.
主要问题是政客们仍无法就联邦政府在教育中该扮演的角色达成共识。虽然来自联邦政府的补贴在学校开支中占比不到10%，但是作为1965年中小学教育法(Elementary and Secondary Education Act)最新体现的NCLB法案给了联邦政府前所未有的影响力。就教学质量，各州必须设定合格标准，未能达标的学校将面临处罚。
NCLB exposed the dismal performance of schools. But it has also demonstrated how clumsy Washington’s hand can be. A requirement for “highly qualified” teachers turns out to have helped keep states from hiring good ones. State standards diverge wildly. NCLB’s main goal, for all pupils to be proficient in reading and maths by 2014, is unrealistic. And thanks to an odd way of judging schools, more than 80% may be labelled as “failing” this year.
Mr Obama has already offered one new model: dangle carrots for reform and hope that states bite. The stimulus offered more than $4 billion in grants for states that made certain changes, such as lifting caps on the number of charter schools and devising new ways to evaluate teachers. No state had to apply for the grant programme, Race to the Top, but 46 did.
奥巴马先生已经提出了一个新模式，即提供改革奖励，希望各州会动心。超过40亿美元的奖励将以补贴的形式提供给那些实施某类变革的州，例如取消特许学校的数额上限和制定新的教师考评办法。这项名为“力争上游”（Race to the Top）的计划并非强制参加，目前已有46个州参与进来。
With the new version of NCLB, Mr Obama can go further. He wants to set clear goals but give states more flexibility in meeting them. His plan would fix NCLB’s most obvious failings, such as neglecting to track the progress of individual pupils. Only the worst schools would face dramatic intervention. Districts would evaluate teachers on a range of factors, including pupil performance.
凭借新版NCLB，奥巴马先生可以走得更远。他希望设定清晰的目标，但就实现方式上留给各州更多的自由。他的计划将弥补 NCLB 最明显的缺陷，比如忽视了对于单个学生的进步跟踪。只有最糟的学校将面临积极干涉。学区将根据一系列因素（包括学生成绩）来考评教师。
Such plans would seem ripe for bipartisan compromise. Gene Wilhoit, director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, thinks that Mr Obama has moved in the right direction. Many of the president’s priorities, such as improving teaching, overlap with those of conservatives.
这样的计划看上去很容易获得两党妥协。州立学校校长协会（Council of Chief State School Officers）主任吉恩韦-贺特（Gene Wilhoit）认为奥巴马先生选择了正确的方向。总统的许多优先事项，比如改进教育质量，都与保守主义者的关注点相重叠。
But Republicans are wary. John Kline, the chairman of the House education committee, frets that states spend too much time complying with federal rules. Race to the Top had good goals, but poor implementation. He is dubious about the proposed interventions for failing schools—a concern he shares with the teachers’ unions. Mr Kline’s party now faces an awkward choice. If the Republicans pass a new version of NCLB, they will give Mr Obama a victory. But if they do nothing, Democrats will blame them for failing to fix a law that voters have come to hate.