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No Family Left Behind

Pius Kamau

Recently President Obama gave Colorado and other states the green light to scrap the No Child Left Behind Law. Passed in 2002 to widespread bipartisan support it made schools accountable for the performance of all students. KUNC commentator Pius Kamau says the intentions of the law were good, but more needs to be done.

No matter their race, income, English proficiency or disability – No Child Left Behind required all students to be proficient in reading and Math by 2014. Prior to 2002 critics opined that a strong federal role was needed because states and school districts failed to enforce education standards.

Ten years later, many feel the law has done nothing more than create a routine of annual testing, with schools teaching to tests. Schools, including some in Colorado, have been closed because they couldn’t meet requirements of the law. Children from failing schools have been bused to higher performing institutions.

Even though as a parent I supported its passage I felt it only partially addressed the problems confronting America's K-12 education system. I thought we needed a No Family Left Behind Law. America's problems such as low expectations, lack of respect for others and diminished personal responsibility all revolve around the family. And until we accept that a healthy family is the key to many of our problems, anything we do only acts as a band-aid to the larger problem. Parents are their children's first teachers. Hence our public schools must find a way to fully engage them in their children's education.

This parent strongly believes that the key to fulfillment of our human potential resides in higher education. That’s why I belong to an organization that brings African women of science to the U.S. to obtain their PhD training. They return to Africa to start families, teach and become tomorrow’s African leaders. They are here precisely because I believe the American university system is the envy of the world. But its excellence until now has been married to a healthy K-12 school system, which has acted as the source of good students. Were the source to shrivel it will be reflected in our universities that produce our thinkers, teachers, legislators and inventors.

Which brings me back to our K-12 quandary. All across America successful schools have found ways for administrators, teachers and parents to work together for their children's education. No matter what new variations to the No child left behind law we come up with, our job is to find ways that have worked elsewhere and are appropriate for our community and our particular school population. I know the world's best brains are looking at our American education system with envy and with a desire to copy it.


Born in Kenya and trained in Spain, Pius Kamau has been in surgical practice in the Denver area for three decades. He was a columnist for The Rocky Mountain News and has written for The Denver Post. Kamau’s commentaries have also been featured on NPR, in the Huffington Post and other national magazines and newspapers. He’s also contributed to several books and recently finished his memoir.
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