Hamilton, Madison and their buddies were really smart guys … and the hot summer they spent in Philadelphia produced our founding document, the Constitution. The deliberations resulted in education not listed as one of the enumerated powers, delegating it to the states.
Considering the No Child Left Behind debacle … they were clearly right.
Diane Ravitch, in a NY Times op ed piece skewers the underpinnings of the currents law.
The law, and the rantings of too many eduwonks, that a combination of sanctions and rewards will improve schools: the threat of school closings or the softening or elimination of tenure coupled with pay for performance (aka merit pay) will, miraculously, create better teachers and effective schools.
The current proposed legislation clashes with the major teacher organizations, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, who both oppose major sections of the proposal.
The core of NCLB is testing … rewards and punishments stem from test results, however, the tests themselves are deeply flawed. Bob Herbert and a recent Fordham Foundation Study (“The Proficiency Illusion”) proffer improvements in test scores are related to easier tests and, of course, school systems that simply figure out ways to “game the tests” rather than educate children.
Rather than dealing with what we know about “closing the gap” foundations, think tanks, bloggers and electeds espouse the “politically correct,” and wrong, solutions.
Start with what we know: we know that children from low socio-economic backgrounds enter pre-kindergarten with substantially lower vocabularies . A solution: federal funding to expand pre-kindergarten classes in low SES communities. It’s not rocket science!
The range of approaches to “gap” issues are complex, cut across the social services spectrum, and, may cost money. The New York State teacher union is convening a conference with a range of national figures to discuss the issues and review current research.
Five years ago President Bush, Democrats and Republicans joined hands and patted themselves on the back over the passage of NCLB. Five years later their efforts have failed. The cure is much worse than the illness. NCLB has sidetracked and marginalized efforts to improve education, especially for inner city families.
A basic approach to a complex issue is to use NAEP and widely advertise the scores. Allow States to design their own programs, and, require that all stakeholders, from elected officials to teacher, parent and community organizations participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of State and local initiatives.
Once again, we should listen to our founding fathers.