Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Time to leave No Child Left Behind behind

Dog days. Dog days. Nothing to write about. Nothing at all.
Caitlyn Jenner's evening wear? The latest Cosby atrocity? The freshest offering of Trump idiocy? What to write about?
Hmm. How about something that has affected every family of every child in every public school for over a decade?
With so many people dramatically affected by No Child Left Behind, I wonder how many families know that Congress is on the verge of passing a rewrite that would leave key components in the dust.
The Bush family knows it. President Obama knows it.
A bipartisan boil has come full bubble -- simmering anger over top-down, fill-in-the-bubble mandates.
NCLB: oversold, underperforming. 
You may ask on what basis that claim is made. Well, let's just say that to whatever extent NCLB has moved the needle relative to student achievement, that wiggle could never be commensurate with the gargantuan costs and draconian means it has employed.
    As with, "All children shall be proficient by 2014," NCLB has been a bust of its own verbosity. Its architects believed that by decreeing something, it would be so. No, it wasn't, and it isn't.
Those who think that NCLB "raised the bar" for America's young don't realize what it has done in most cases: flatten classroom expectations. That's what happens when competence is advertised as excellence, and when standardization is decreed to be education.
Testing and test-prep not only have gobbled up teaching time but turned student and teacher enthusiasm into mulch. Finally Americans have had enough of that. We will wait to see if policy makers have.
The Senate, by an overwhelming 81-17 vote, has passed a measure that would leave in place mandated tests but give states the flexibility to use them as they see fit.
It also would prohibit the federal government from requiring or encouraging states to implement specific standards, such as the Common Core.
The House is likely to pass something similar, setting up a possible veto fight.
President Obama, as with his predecessor, is far too affixed to the notion that the nation craves Washington's hyper-intimate involvement in what hapens in the classroom.
This applies as well to Jeb Bush, whose ardent support of the Common Core is among several liabilities that, as of this writing, have him lagging behind, um, Donald Trump in the polls.
Jeb knows that the Donald will talk his way out of the running by, oh, next Tuesday. But, as the latest Bush who's stepped forward to cure what ails public education with top-down mandates, he's getting a reaction that is as warm as if he were to pronounce Iraq ripe for nation-building.
The Obama administration doesn't get a pass on its tone-deafness about federal meddling in public schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will go any place at any time to listen to, and then ignore, what teachers, parents and administrators say.
Honestly, I don't see how anyone involved in education policy could not hear what the people in the trenches say about "school accountability." I understand that many lawmakers have their minds in the farm implement dealership back home when the subject comes up, but how could an education secretary so willfully and skillfully disregard what educators say?
Duncan is just one in a long train of education secretaries who, wielding NCLB as a weapon, have done everything they could to discount and devalue what teachers and parents have to say.
The Common Core is not the boogie-man portrayed by the rusty-gate right. However, as one more over-hyped device to engender classroom homogeny, we should give it credit for motivating Republicans to revolt against the schemes the GOP saluted under George W. Bush.
Apologists for NCLB have pointed out its bipartisan roots, with Edward Kennedy playing a key role in its passing. Well, now bipartisanship is working against it. Hear the rumble, Mr. President.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

No comments: