Our opinion:?Tools for education

There is something very different about the school performance program under Pennsylvania’s alternative to No Child Left Behind.

Instead of threats – if you don’t perform we will take over your school – there is help.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Education released a list of 92 of the poorest scoring schools on its new school performance profile report.

Not surprisingly, the majority of that list includes schools in the Philadelphia school district and a number of cyber charter schools. The balance was mostly poor urban districts, like Chester-Upland and in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Under its mandate to do something about under-performing districts as part of its permission to side-step the federally mandated and roundly criticized No Child Left Behind program, Pennsylvania has eschewed threats of takeover and is spending about $800,000 to provide regional academic recovery liaisons.

The liaisons, education professionals with at least a decade of experience, will work with the administrations of those failing schools to ensure that the curriculum, teaching materials and teacher training and practices are all appropriate to help children in struggling classes.

Pennsylvania at least appears to be replacing the sledge hammer with a set of tools. Perhaps it will take pressure off those administrators to game the system.

We believe this is a positive step, but not necessarily a guarantee of success.

Education is a very complicated process and relies as much on factors outside of a school’s control as it does factors within the control of teachers and administrators. Chief among among those outside factors is family life, or the lack of family involvement. And, how does government tackle that problem without intruding on the rights of individuals?