Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to the news that states may apply for waivers of the flawed No Child Left Behind law while Congress works to overhaul it. Enacted with bipartisan support in 2002, the law has come under increasing criticism as it led to schools being punished when students failed to improve enough on standardized tests. Especially unpopular was the law's requirement that 100 percent of students must show proficiency in reading and math, even those with learning disabilities. Schools could be labeled as failing even when students were showing improvement.

Under the waiver plan announced last week, the U.S. Department of Education will work with states to make sure schools still aim for high standards of achievement, but allow schools to decide on their own how to correct deficiencies rather than being told how to spend federal school aid.

Cheers — to local doctors and hospital pharmacists who have worked together to make sure cancer patients get the chemotherapy drugs they need in the face of national shortages of some medications. While patients in some parts of the country have been told in the midst of treatment that drugs are no longer available, that hasn't yet happened here. Doctors who diagnose cancer in patients immediately order enough medication for a full course of treatment. Hospital pharmacists use extreme care not to waste any medication as they prepare the doses, and staffers meet daily with doctors' offices to track and order drugs and keep them stocked.

Jeers — to the news that an effective stop-smoking drug widely used in Eastern Europe for 40 years is unlikely ever to be available here — because it doesn't cost enough. Generic forms of the drug cytisine cost as little as $5 to $17 a month, compared with $300 for a 12-week supply of Chantix, a prescription stop-smoking drug made by Pfizer.

Pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay for the clinical trials that would be necessary to get the drug approved for use in the U.S. because they couldn't make enough profit after cytisine was approved. If they did, the price likely would go up.

Cheers — to the Britt Fesitvals, which cut its annual operating deficit in half with successful 2011 season featuring some of the biggest names in music. Eight shows sold out this year, and total attendance was up 15 percent over last year. This summer's season saw increased concession sales, a new stage featuring local musicians and a new Rock Camp for local teenagers. Patrons responded by paying higher basic membership fees.

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