The federal push for accountability makes some sense. Parents and taxpayers deserve an independent assessment of how well their schools are doing.
Where the federal law fails is in its rigid simplicity and punitive sanctions from on high.
The Madison School District, for example, has a growing population of students who enter school speaking little or no English. And close to 40 percent of all students in Madison public schools are from low-income families.
Those factors undoubtedly contributed to Madison’s four main high schools — as well as some schools in Stoughton, Janesville and Beloit — being flagged for not making “adequate yearly progress.” Ninety-two Wisconsin schools in all were similarly cited, almost twice as many as last year. Milwaukee accounted for more than half.
That information is valuable to the public and can help pressure schools to improve. State and local school officials should redouble their efforts to try to meet more of the standards of No Child Left Behind, despite its flaws.
Instead, too many school officials are grousing about their grades — just as some of their students might do after a difficult algebra quiz.
A bad attitude won’t help improve the scores. And while some of the poor marks can be explained, they shouldn’t be explained away.