Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A lot of rose colored glasses

Right now there seems to be a lot of optimism about the difference the new administration is going to make in education. I'm afraid that there are a lot of people looking through rose-colored glasses. I really like Barack Obama, and the things he has been doing in the economy and foreign policy sound good to me. But I must confess that I don't consider myself an expert at those things, so I can only hope that what he is doing there is more real than what he is doing for American education. Since I've spent my last 35 years working with kids in classrooms, I do consider myself an expert at that, and I'm afraid when it comes to education, the Obama administration is all smoke and mirrors.

Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education is about to embark on a mission to gain input about how to overhaul No Child Left Behind.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a man on a mission: to hear what teachers, students and parents in at least 15 states think about No Child Left Behind, the controversial education law championed by former President George W. Bush.

President Barack Obama has pledged to overhaul the law, but he has been vague about how far he would go, or whether he would scrap it altogether...

"I don't know if 'scrap' is the word," Duncan told reporters last week. "Where things make sense, we're going to keep them. Where things didn't make sense, we're going to change them."

...Duncan gives the law credit for shining a spotlight on kids who need the most help. No Child Left Behind pushes schools to boost the performance of low-achieving students, a group that typically includes minority kids, English-language learners and kids with disabilities.

"Forevermore in our country, we can't sweep those huge disparities with outcomes between white children and Latino children and African-American children, we can't sweep those under the rug ever again," Duncan said.

Yet Duncan has many criticisms of No Child Left Behind, and he has plenty of company.

One of Duncan's ideas to fix the program is to change its name.
"I do think the name 'No Child Left Behind' is absolutely toxic; I think we have to start over," Duncan said. He has said he would like to hold a contest for school kids to come up with a new name.

Hey, that ought to do it! I've got news for Secretary Duncan. As long as the goal of the program is to provide quality education for every kid whether they like it or not, especially while we provide due process rights for every kid who has no interest in getting an education but wants to be in school so he can clown around for his friends, we will continue to have these kinds of results:
Since the law's passage, students have made modest gains, at least in elementary and middle school, the grades that are the focus of No Child Left Behind. The biggest gains have come among lower-achieving students, the kids who now are getting unprecedented attention.

The story is different in high school, where progress seems stalled and where the dropout rate, a dismal one in four children, has not budged.

Jon Schnur, who has been an advisor to President Obama is another optimist. Schnur talks about "breakthroughs" that have happened in "hundreds of schools" around the nation. Breakthroughs are great, but I wonder how many of those schools that he talks about are high schools. I'll bet not very many. And if progress is made from those breakthroughs in elementary schools only to be lost as kids move on through the upper grades, what good are they?


Blogger derek said...

Tinkering with names is a distraction from any meaningful reform. Reform that will make any lasting change will be complex and face some opposition from big political donators. Duncan, who I had high hopes for, seems to be scared of doing any real work.

5/05/2009 6:06 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

Come now, changing the name fixes everything! Didn't you hear? We no longer have a War on Terror. That's over--thanks to our new, "Overseas Contingency Operation" [smile].

May our leaders have wisdom as they seek to bring about change so that they truly make this world--and our nation--a better place.


5/05/2009 8:33 AM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

But Luke, that would mean most of them would have to resign!!

5/05/2009 10:37 AM  
Anonymous pedantic peasant said...

OK, the name thing is stupid, and a distraction. And I'm certainly not arguing that high schools have not been helped -- and may have been seriously hurt -- by the program as it stands.

However, if most of NCLB's focus has been on elementary schools, and allowing for a year or two before it really started making a difference, then there is a slight possibility that when those kids who started in NCLB elementary schools in 2003 and enter high school next year or in 2011 we may actually see some changes and improvement. Maybe.

5/08/2009 5:08 AM  
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