Editorial: School closure might help Ute students

"There are two ways to look at the imminent closure of West Middle School in rural Fort Duchesne.

Viewpoint No. 1: The school and its students - nearly all Utes - are the nation's first victims of the arbitrary No Child Left Behind federal education-reform law. The school is being forced to close because, under unfair NCLB rules, it has been listed repeatedly as "failing." Its 120 students will have to ride a bus 20 miles to attend school in Vernal, where classrooms are filled almost entirely by white students. The forced integration and the long daily bus ride could increase the already dismal dropout rate for Ute kids - nearly 80 percent.

Viewpoint No. 2: West Middle School, with a long history of poor performance, should be closed, and NCLB only provided the needed impetus to get the job done. In fact, the closure of West shows that NCLB is working to weed out failing schools and give students better options. A 20-mile bus ride is not unusual for rural students in Utah's wide, open spaces, and graduates of West would be bused into Vernal or Roosevelt for high school anyway. In Vernal, the students will be able to participate in athletics and broader academic programs.

We see some truth in both points of view. NCLB's rules are still too rigid, even after some adjustments.

It seems to us that schools need help, not penalties, where many students are struggling. Many of the Ute students at West face cultural and economic challenges. Regular attendance, especially on test day, is a problem. Too few students taking the test can, by itself, cause the school to be labeled failing. "

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Editorial: A test for NCLB: School closure may be good for students (The Salt Lake Tribune 12/21)

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