YES! You read that right! No Child Left Behind is officially coming to an end!
Well, okay. Not exactly, but it is a start, I suppose. However, I do not forsee any substantial changes coming along anytime soon. In fact, the Obama administration has pretty much come out and said that they are just going to be looking to change the name, dispite some of the promises he made while campaigning. So as far as the feds go, it is still business as usual. And it is still going to be the same in the state of Georgia, too. Even when the state legislature tried to make room for some choice within a district, the rules imposed by the DOE pretty much make it impossible to happen, for good or ill. Basically, the Georgia DOE has proven itself to be more and more of an enemy to public education that anything coming out of Washington! I’m repeatedly amazed at how they manage to bungle up legislation passed by our elected officials, or block legislation designed to fix their blunders.
And pretty much all of it is hostile towards individuals with disabilities as well as the rest of the student population. When our students increasingly demand a costumized education, the state and the feds are doing everything they can to homogenize it. When the world cries out for creativity and innovation, the educational system forces conformity and uniformity.
The rebranding of NCLB is simply repainting the same rundown shack and giving it a new name. According to the WaPo article above, it is almost literally window dressing as the red schoolhouse is replaced by pictures hung in the windows of the building of children doing various activities.
At any rate, it is still lovely seeing the crowning jewel of the GW Bush legacy added to the ash heap of history. Even so, the stench of its consquences still remains as a sort of toxic haze choking off any meaningful education inovation and reform.
Before moving on to other topics, I do want to elaborate just a bit on my contempt for NCLB.
In 2002, I was actually an advocate for this legislation or at least a large part of it. I wanted highly qualified teachers and accountability. I wanted all students to learn and I was all for using research-based instructional methods and materials. I never believed that more money was the answer, so as a tax payer, I thought it was a good idea to make funding contingent on getting some results. But I never really dreamed that my SID/PID students would be caught up in this. And then I started seeing how NCLB was being implimented and it became harder and harder to defend this law. Basically, it turned our national curriculum into “Test Prep.” Basic bench marks and minimum requirements suddenly became some sort of gold standard, and mediocrity became the ultimate goal. I’ve never seen antything wipe out and destroy student creativity and and teacher innovation more effectively than this law.
So while many of the things that I wanted while supporting NCLB were noble, it was a serious error putting such an important task into the hands of the federal government. I was very wrong, and over time that wrong-ness has been reinforced every single time our own state DOE interprets this terrible law and makes it an even more hideous monstrosity. The ideals espoused by the people peddling this law and the actual execution of it are very, very far apart. As a former supporter of this law (and the president who wants to take credit for it) there is a very, very deep sense of betrayal. When it became obvious that this thing was stripping autonomy away from local school systems and causing a collapse of creative and independent thought in favor of the Test Culture, it should have been scrapped or at least something new developed to take its place. But we have nothing to show for it, an imminent meltdown in 2013 when every school fails to make the 100% AYP mark, and an entire generation that has been left behind while the rest of the world is learning how to think creatively, independently, competetively, globally and collaboratively. And there is no plan on what to do next.
Many of you probably saw the light long before I did, and I want to apologize to you for my slowness. I know there were people who saw much further down the road than I did, and I should have listened more carefully. I do feel a bit of guilt for starting out on the wrong side of this issue. But I’m speaking now. Here’s a few ideas:
1. First, I believe that every single person involved in the architecture of NCLB should be dismuissed, and placed far away from any influence in educational policy. Put them in a SID/PID classroom.
2. Second, a new strategy should be develped from scratch. That means we need to start on it right away. But the conversation should be as inclusive as possible. The capacity for involvement are much greater today than they were in 2000. Let’s use those tools.
3. No plan should be set in stone. We need to be mindful of changing conditions. NCLB was written and implimented for the 1990′s educational syatem. The world is changing and the capacity of teachning and learning are also changing. And they will change again. Flexibility needs to be built in.
4. Start removing the teeth from NCLB now, so that the damage becomes less and less so that by 2013, the impact will be minimal.
5. Make student motivation part of the converation when discussing student performance.
Those are just a few of my ideas. Feel free to make up your own, put them in a comment or better yet, send them to your favorite (or least favorite) legislator or governmental entity.