The Obama administration has offered waivers so that the worst aspects of NCLB don't take effect. In doing so, however, the administration requires certain unpleasant aspects of their own education plan, Race to the Top. Those requirements are bad enough that some states, most notably California, have refused the waiver and have chosen to take their chances, instead, with the destructive and anti-education bill, NCLB.
The waivers now offered by the US Department of Education require the states to comply with other mandates, still tied to the NCLB-style accountability framework. The emphasis on testing under the waiver plan is as heavy-handed as it has been under NCLB. Many schools with high numbers of low-scoring students will be subject to firings and closings. They need help, not punishment.Neither NCLB nor Race to the Top is good for public education...and neither of the two major parties in the US has any clue how...or any intention...to change things.
In his blog entry titled Resolve in 2012: Abolish No Child Left Behind, John Young likens No Child Left Behind to the NCAA giving extra scholarship money to the most successful athletic programs.
Have you heard of the Capital One Cup?He continues...
It goes to the two Division I NCAA schools that win the most titles each year in men's and women's sports.
The prize? In addition to the glittering silver keepsake: $400,000 in athletic scholarships. Inspiring, right?
Don't you know Texas, or Florida, or USC, or some other booster-endowed NCAA mega power could use that extra scholarship money?
OK. It's not inspiring; it's ridiculous.
Now, imagine that in addition to awarding college behemoths with more riches, we decreed that a gridiron patsy like Columbia, Tulane or Florida Atlantic shut down its football program for having too bad a record.
The Obama administration realizes that the monster is about to hit the wall — or crash through it — the one requiring 100 percent "proficiency" in core subjects nationwide next school year.The mistake, however, is in assuming that the Obama administration, while deserving credit for wanting to change NCLB, is proposing anything better. In truth, the Democrats are providing the corporate "reformers" with the same reward NCLB provided: Closing "failing" schools, increasing charters, and blaming teachers and their unions for the failures of the economic system. There's little or no research basis for Race to the Top and there's very little difference between the two major parties when it comes to education policy. This non-choice is between Corporate Democrats or Corporate Republicans.
Almost from day one this administration has urged a rewrite of NCLB. However, the Senate is frozen into irreconcilable parts, and this House is sworn to resist Obama's every twitch. Consequently, the Department of Education has set up a system of waivers for states on a case-by-case basis.
Lawmakers are incensed by this, but they know what NCLB requires regarding "100 proficiency" is beyond the pale.
This is the year, with Democratic frustration over NCLB's untenable realities, with Republican frustration over the federal meddling it authorizes, it's time to kill NCLB.
We need to kill No Child Left Behind, as the Democratic administration wants...but we also need to kill Race to the Top and the corporate influence in public education.
Instead of Race to the Top or No Child Left Behind we need a systemic change in American society. Diane Ravitch lists some places to start in her speech to the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.
So what can we do? First, we should speak out when politicians say “there is no more money.” There is money to do what we want to do. There is money to fight wars in the Middle East. There is enough money to give big corporate cuts. There is enough money for 1% of this nation to live lives of splendor. Why is there not enough money to provide the basic public services that every child needs?Now those are changes I can believe in.
- Every pregnant woman should have good pre-natal care and nutrition so that her child is born healthy. One of three children born to women who do not get good prenatal care will have disabilities that are preventable. That will cost society far more than providing these women with prenatal care.
- Every child should have the medical attention and nutrition that they need to grow up healthy.
- Every child should have high-quality early childhood education.
- Every school should have experienced teachers who are prepared to help all children learn.
- Every teacher should have at least a masters degree.
- Every principal should be a master teacher, not a recruit from industry, the military, or the sports world.
- Every superintendent should be an experienced educator who understands teaching and learning and the needs of children.
- Every school should have a health clinic.
- Schools should collaborate with parents, the local community, civic leaders, and local business leaders to support the needs of children.
- Every school should have a full and balanced curriculum, with the arts, sciences, history, civics, geography, mathematics, foreign languages, and physical education.
- Every child should have time and space to play.
- We must stop investing in testing, accountability, and consultants and start investing in children.
On principals and supers without knowledge and experience in public education....
My principal has years of experience as a teacher and a science coach. She is an expert in instructional design and delivery. I can go to her with an idea, and know she will work with me to figure out ways to present material to my students. She also understands that I am the expert when it comes to my students, all of whom have disabilities. She has supported me in becoming a better teacher through her faith, respect, and mentoring. My school routinely gets the higher ratings for positive work climate. She will be retiring in a couple of years, and I shudder to think of what is in store for our school.
I don't have to try hard to imagine some pinhead with a clipboard checking off rubric boxes, while I am teaching my student. Neither do I have to stretch my imagination to fear that such a pinhead will disregard my reasoning for decisions I have made about my classroom based on my knowledge about my students' disabilities. For example, I got dinged at my last school on an observation because my walls were not "extra" teachers. Meaning that I did not and still do not clutter my walls with multiple charts and hang more charts from the ceilings. I strive to create a calm and clutter-free classroom as I possibly can. I teach students who are easily overstimulated and distracted. Making my walls extra teachers is not helpful to them. I explained that and still got dinged, because that principal had no empathy for or desire to learn about the students I teach.
I agree. I've worked with nearly a dozen principals over my career. The worst principal was the one who had never taught at the grade levels of our school. The best was the one who had spent many years as a teacher first.
Good leaders can come from any area, and being a good teacher doesn't automatically qualify you as a good principal, but a good leader with a solid teaching background can become a great principal.
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