Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is The Administration Finally Admitting Change Is Needed?

The Obama administration is revising NCLB - finally there is sensibility in Washington. Maybe. The good news is the expansion of standards to include science and social studies, not just math and ELA. Also positive is the plan to back off AYP and, rather, set goals for college or career readiness for graduating students. Another positive aspect is the focus on principal quality in addition to ensuring the effectiveness of teachers.

However, there's still the goal of using testing as the measure of success with a heavy hand by the federal government on ensuring compliance to standards. Even with new national standards that reflect higher-order thinking versus memorizing facts and formulas, schools will still be held accountable by the federal government, rather than their state government, or better yet, their community. Even with the decrease in the number of poor performing schools being punished, the federal government is still meddling in local issues. Providing grants and funding for innovation and improved results is a great role for the Feds but using test scores as the only measure of success is just wrong. Awarding the dollars in return for compliance to unproven reform practices (e.g, more charters, firing staff, closing schools) is even more deadly to public education in this country.

Local communities - politicians, business leaders, formal and informal social groups - need to take back control. Some districts and states are refusing to compromise local control and principles by not applying for Race to the Top funding. We need to see more community and state leaders have the courage to just say "no" to the money if it means implementing questionable improvement practices, that are more like punishment than rewards.

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