New Hampshire finally has a federal waiver that allows the state to wriggle out from under the regulations of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Now that state officials have seen how constricting and counter-productive inflexible, bureaucratic dictates can be, New Hampshire's approach to education reform should be clear.
NCLB was one in a long line of well-meaning but hopelessly flawed federal laws that tried to improve outcomes by dictating procedures. That it flopped is no surprise. That it remains on the books is disappointing. The Obama administration is granting waivers to let states meet many of the law's goals without having to jump through its hoops. After neglecting to apply for a waiver for far too long, New Hampshire finally did last September. Now we are one of 38 states granted greater flexibility in how to achieve broad educational improvements.
"New Hampshire is now free to pursue more effective and innovative ways to address the needs of all our students and prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century economy," Gov. Maggie Hassan said of the ruling.
Those are welcome words from the governor. And that is not only because the previous governor dragged his feet in applying for the waiver.
New Hampshire has many excellent public schools. It has many schools that struggle. And it has many students who fall behind no matter how good their school is. The challenge in public education is to turn every capable student into a productive, educated, self-sufficient member of society. Few people think this is done in our current industrial, assembly-line system.
If New Hampshire's students are to reach their potential, each will need to learn in the way that best suits his or her own mind. That means more freedom for teachers and parents. It means better curricula but also a school system that has incentives to respond to each student's own needs. That would be what true freedom and innovation produce. If the governor and legislators pursue that, then we can show the rest of the nation how education reform is done.