The key to opportunity in America is a good quality education. It is truly the great equalizer. And there’s no doubt that since the Carter administration decided to separate and create a singular Department of Education — out of Health, Education and Welfare — America has spent billions of federal dollars on education. However, the rate of return on that “government investment” is disproportionately aligned with the standards of education in America. Yep, I spent a year teaching high school in South Florida and saw what “standardized testing” has done. It creates an environment where teachers teach robotic test-taking, not development of critical thinking skillsAnd we’ve all seen the results when young people get to college who can’t effectively communicate, either written or oral. Heck, I remember my mom making me learn cursive writing before the first grade.
So how does this change? How do we get education back to the level where it truly belongs, at the state and local level — after all, that’s where the school boards are. Perhaps that’s the first thing the new GOP majority can get right.
As reported by Politico, “Republicans are hatching an ambitious plan to rewrite No Child Left Behind this year — one that could end up dramatically rolling back the federal role in education and trigger national blowouts over standardized tests and teacher training.”
“NCLB cleared Congress in 2002 with massive bipartisan support but has since become a political catastrophe: The law’s strategy for prodding and shaming schools into improvement proved deeply flawed over time, and its unintended failures have eclipsed its bright spots. Today, NCLB is despised by some parents who blame it for schools “teaching to the test,” protested by some on the left for promoting education reform and reviled by Republicans in Congress who say the law represents aggressive federal overreach.”Do we finally have a bipartisan issue with a unity of effort to get back the basics of educating our future generations, instead of top-down driven standards? I guess it would be too much to wish for bipartisan advocacy for things like school choice, vouchers, charter schools and homeschooling.
Politico reports, “Now Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (R) and Rep. John Kline of Minnesota (D), who will lead the Senate and House education committees, are planning to push an overhaul of NCLB at a moment when backlash in the states has reached an all-time high, opening up new political windows to strip the federal role out of education. The push to rewrite the country’s main K-12 education law will be “all about Congress taking a red pen and deleting” language, said Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a former Education Department staffer.”
Hey, when I mentioned bipartisanship, I wasn’t kidding. “Alexander spent December huddling with lawmakers, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s forthcoming ranking member, to begin hammering out a strategy for a bill that could clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. He’s said he wants a bill on the president’s desk before summer. Lobbyists swarmed Capitol Hill in December to sway lawmakers’ positions in chaotic education debates over how often to test students and what role — if any — school vouchers should have in the law. These debates are set to erupt in January, though some groups have put themselves ahead of the curve: The National Education Association, the country’s largest teacher’s union, has been pushing to roll back testing requirements for years and is seizing on recent anti-testing sentiment in the states to make a fresh case for getting rid of annual tests on Capitol Hill.”All of this will put the Obama administration in a very interesting dilemma because it’s not just a reworking of NCLB, but will also impact Common Core.
But there’s always a line in the sand, and it will come from an all too familiar place. “Part of the difficulty in rewriting the law is that the most hated parts of the bill are deeply intertwined with its heralded civil rights provisions: The testing requirements, for example, allowed the government for the first time to spotlight the achievement gaps between white students from higher-income families and their peers when those test results were broken down by race and socioeconomic status. NCLB put a public spotlight on schools and districts that were falling flat when it comes to helping disadvantaged students — and pressed them to improve when no one else would. Rep. George Miller, the outgoing ranking member of the House education committee and an original author of NCLB, said he anticipates the business and civil rights communities will rein in lawmakers when it comes to keeping the law’s testing and accountability requirements.”When Rep. Miller talks about the “business” community, is he referring to the textbook and testing business industry? It seems that the fight will come, but I would look to Success Academy in Harlem to dispel the assertion of anyone seeking to use the race crutch. It comes down to developing critical curriculum that challenges students, not just the belief that tests guarantee some outcomes. But then again, that’s a collectivist perspective — the equality of outcomes as opposed to the equality of opportunity.
The focus of education has to be about better educational opportunities — not government-driven solutions to bring about equality of testing outcomes.
It will be interesting to see this legislation end up on President Obama’s desk — and what he does about it.