Monday, January 7, 2008

Senator Kennedy on NCLB

Senator Kennedy has an op-ed in the Washington Post today to mark the anniversary of No Child Left Behind. It is a valiant effort to ensure that even with everyone focused on presidential politics, we don’t leave the legislation behind. I think it is a futile effort.

I thoroughly support his assertion that the law has helped put the spotlight on the achievement gap and gives schools the data they need to make improvements. Here some points where I agree with Senator Kennedy on changes needed:

  • More information should be used to decide on failing schools – particularly growth models and NOT portfolios (where else but education could you hand in your best work to demonstrate your knowledge of the material?)
  • More professional development for teachers – as long as it is not limited to schools of education• More mentoring for beginning teachers is absolutely needed – and we really need standards that define what great mentoring means
  • More emphasis in placing good teachers in struggling schools
  • More emphasis on the drop-out issue is desperately needed
  • Fix crumbling schools and make sure that students have the right resources – but this is a district job and should not be in NCLB

What I can’t stand:

  • Teaching to the Test – if the state standards which determine what students should know are done well and actually are the critical pieces of knowledge that every student must have to succeed in life and the state exam tests that knowledge – then teaching to the test is actually teaching students what they must know to succeed. How is that possibly bad??? If he means that student standards should be improved and the state exams must clearly test those standards then we agree
  • NCLB discourages innovation?? When you have the data to see what works and what doesn’t, and the accountability to ensure you improve that data – you absolutely have to innovate and in every profession in the world: data plus accountability = innovation – so how does NCLB discourage innovation?
  • Smaller class sizes – the data does not support this at all but this is probably a political play at appeasing the teacher unions that support creating more jobs for teachers
    My cynicism about reauthorization has grown exponentially.

NCLB will not be tackled until after the 2008 elections. And in a spirit of the new bi-partisanship from President {fill in name here}, it will not get any real focus until 2010 at best. So we are stuck with it as is for now - in spite of some good words from Senator Kennedy.

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