Rep. McKinley desires more local control in education

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Rep. McKinley desires more local control in education
By Alex Wiederspiel, MetroNews

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill by a 218-213 vote last Wednesday that reauthorizes No Child Left Behind, but could threaten the standards known as Common Core.

This is the first reauthorization of No Child Left Behind since 2007.

Republican David McKinley (WV-1) was one of the 218 members of the House to vote for that bill–citing high drop-out rates and low proficiency scores for U.S. students in math and reading.

According to information provided by McKinley’s office, one in five U.S. students drop out of high school, and proficency scores in math are hovering at just 26% for U.S. students and 38% in reading for U.S. students.

“I don’t think it’s any okay for any family to say it’s a worthy education system that delivers that product,” McKinley said on MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network.

Graduation rates are around 81%, but a more intricate measure called the “status dropout rate” used by the National Center for Education Statistics pinpoints a drop-out rate closer to seven percent. That measure looks at 16-to-24 year old students who did not graduate high school and never got the equivalent of a high school diploma.
McKinley said that the reauthorization and the included amendments are not perfect, but claims it’s better than continuing with Common Core.

“I know it’s not perfect,” he said. “Ronald Reagan and others have said–far brighter than I–that if you get 80 percent of what you want, you ought to go for it.”

The House version of the bill prohibits the Department of Education from exerting control over state academic standards. The Senate version does something similar, but has some slight differences. If the Senate version is passed, the two chambers will need to reconcile the bills.

McKinley said that the House would not accept any version of this bill if it keeps Common Core intact.

“We’re not bending from that,” he said. “That’s one thing I know will remain in the final version. The House will not accept a bill if Common Core is still part of it.”

The aforementioned testing of students in math and reading is broken down into four categories–advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic. The testing from 2013 showed minor improvements for U.S. students in math and reading.

Since 1990, 8th grade students have improved from 15% proficient or advanced to 36%. While 26% scored at “below basic” in math, that number is down from 48% in 1990.

For 4th grade students, only 13% were advanced or proficient in 1990 and a staggering 50% were below basic. There are now 42% scoring in the advanced or proficient category, and only 17% below basic.

West Virginia was one of just four of the pilot-test states where test scores went up in 2013.

While the improvements are encouraging, there seems to be a larger concern that other developmentally-advanced nations are continuing to outpace the United States. A 2011 study showed that if U.S. students continue to fall behind, it could cost the nation $75 trillion in gross domestic product over an 80-year period.

McKinley believes positive changes will not come with further government intervention into state school systems.

“I want to engage primarily the idea of families being more involved rather than the Federal Government,” he said.

There were several prominent amendments proposed and adopted in the reauthorization bill. One allows parents to opt their students out of onerous testing. That amendment passed 251-178.

Another proposed amendment would have allowed states to opt out of No Child Left Behind and still receive federal money, but failed by a 195-235 vote.