The Lesson of No Child Left Behind: “You Don’t Fatten a Pig By Weighing It”

 

“every farmer knows you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it,” 
aphorism 
 
 
No Child Left Behind has dominated the national education scene for years. A bipartisan law, that was hailed as a major step forward increasingly is assailed by virtually all.
 
The law relies on States to establish goals, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and sets increasingly severe penalties for schools that fail to reach AYP. Not surprisingly schools have moved to “drill and kill” curricula to achieve AYP, to the detriment of the subjects not tested.
 
The teacher unions, the NEA and the AFT have increasingly criticized the law, in fact, the supporters of the law continue to shrink.
 
 New Talk, sponsored a three day online discussion, “Do we need a basic re-write of NCLB?” –  the discussants included Randi Weingarten, (UFT/AFT President), Chris Cerf (DOE Deputy), Diane Ravitch, Sol Stern (City Journal), Checker Finn (Thomas Fordham Foundation), Philip Howard (Common Good), Arthur Levine (Woodrow Wilson Foundation, formerly Teacher College President), Sara Mead (New American Foundation) and a list of other “voices” in the educational community.
The discussion was hosted by John Merrow.
 
It is a must read!! 
 
The discussion evolved from spanking the law to offering a range of specific “new ideas,” both relating to the law and to educational policy in general. And, my dose of schedenfreude, watching Sol Stern skewer Chris Cerf as he tries, really hard, to be the neutral scholar-type instead of his true role, the Joel Klein hatchet man.
 
The original 1965 law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) drove federal dollars, Title I, to schools based on poverty. The dollars could not supplant tax levy dollars, and, frequently paid for “specialty” teachers in Reading, Math and Bi-Lingual/ESL education. The 2003 reauthorization changed the name of the law and added the AYP driven sanctions.
 
States are slow to make change, they are making incremental progress, for example, according to the National Governors Association, in establishing common measurements of graduation rates.
 
On the NCLB front views are across the spectrum.
 
Randi Weingarten laid out her “community school” plan and Checker Finn called it a distraction, lacking evidence.
 
Diane Ravitch addressed the testing issue in detail with targeted recommendations.
 
The New Talk discussion raised many questions, and answered few …
 
* What should be the role of the federal government?
* Can we trust States to measure their own progress?
* Do sanctions work?
* Should the law simply post test results and leave enforcement to the States?
* Shouldn’t we measure all students progress rather than the AYP concept?
 
While education has not emerged as an issue in the presidential election, aside from McCain attacking teacher unions, the reauthorization of NCLB will become a major issue in the next Congressional legislative session. The New Talk discussion clearly shows the lack of any consensus, but, it continues an increasingly public dialogue.
 
The outcome of this discussion, the still amorphous reauthorization, will shape American classrooms, for years, perhaps decades.
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One response to “The Lesson of No Child Left Behind: “You Don’t Fatten a Pig By Weighing It”

  1. Pingback: The Lesson of No Child Left Behind: “You Don’t Fatten a Pig By Weighing It” | Edwize

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