By ann summers
So the good news is that with the signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act , 2002’s No Child Left Behind finally joins eraser chalk in the dustbin of History, but like whiteboards, the aroma of dry-erase markers has its own side effects. In this rare bit of bipartisanship or “political posturing”, to have written legislation that signifies a compromise with a less-than-optimal outcome will help the continuing slide of national education.
The problem is that there will be more state-level bureaucracies with their own levels of pedgogical stupidity and agendas (think union-busting RW district fiefdoms breeding more rogue, venture capitalist charter schools and revisionist textbooks). More money for school uniforms and bullet-proof convertible whiteboards.
So while there is no central, federal Super-zombie, the virus-riddled Id of NCLB will be with the US educational system for decades to come until better Zombieland rules can be formulated for pedagogy. Teacher education will continue to slide having lost another avenue of federal support even if for bad metrics. Think of the Chipolte neurovirus getting a school cafeteria automat contract for Brains(sic). Rick Perry gets closer to counting “three” cabinet level departments to eliminate.
This is the next step of the neoliberals’ drive to move toward that libertarian version of deregulated, disintegrated warlordism in education that will come as the Khan Academy builds its first brick and mortar school building. The 50-Finland hope for educational quality will move toward a 50-Somalia one and the market clearing rate for knowledge as a commodity approaches zero.
The most conspicuous manifestation of that bipartisan give-and-take is what’s being highlighted by news outlets and pundits across the country: Schools will still be held accountable for student performance, but states can determine the nuances of how that will take place. They’ll have to use “college-and-career ready” standards and intervene when those expectations aren’t met, but states will get to design their own standards and intervention protocol.
They’ll still be required to administer annual testing in certain grades, ensure at least 95 percent of students participate, and disaggregate data based on students’ race, income, and disability status, but they can use other factors on top of testing to assess student performance, and the details of how the testing happens and how the scores are interpreted are up to states.
“If anything, this bill really takes the air out of the political footballs that have been Common Core and overtesting.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act, which tackles several issues in George W. Bush’s signature 2002 education law, was approved by large, bipartisan margins in the House and the Senate. This comes as a huge relief to many education advocates, parents, students, and lawmakers who have been trying to improve the increasingly unpopular NCLB for more than a decade.
“The only thing they are likely to notice is that their state or district may spend time reducing the number of tests they have been layering on over the past few years”—a problem that, contrary to belief, wasn’t really a federal one to begin with.
While there are still countless unanswered questions around how exactly the new mandates will be implemented and funded in states and districts, one thing is clear: The new bill reflects a growing national consensus that schools can’t be fixed through one-size-fits-all solutions coming from distant, federal officials...
The original, well-intentioned No Child Left Behind law was intended to reduce stubborn race- and class-based achievement gaps. Instead, it created a system in which American kids take more standardized, mostly multiple-choice tests than their peers in any other industrialized nation. One high school senior in Florida told me that she took 15 standardized tests last year alone. By her own estimates, she spent about three months out of every high school year taking or preparing for multiple-choice tests.
Nationally, this sort of school-based professional development is difficult to sustain because American teachers have heavier teaching loads than educators in many other countries and little time for learning and leadership (three to five hours per week in most schools). Teachers in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, by contrast, spend 15 to 25 hours each week working to improve their craft.
IN THEORY, EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS CALLS FOR DISTRICTS TO WORK DIRECTLY WITH TEACHERS AND STAFF TO DESIGN TAILORED CLASSROOM REFORM PLANS. BUT HISTORICALLY SUCH MANDATES HAVE NOT BEEN FULLY FUNDED AND HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT TO SUSTAIN.
Most importantly, classroom reforms face the biggest obstacles in schools with large numbers of low-income kids and students of color. In the past 10 years, the per-student funding gap between rich and poor schools has grown by 44 percent. Less funding means fewer qualified teachers, larger classes, and less time for teachers to plan, learn, and lead. It’s hard to imagine making any significant progress in closing our achievement and opportunity gaps when these inequities are not addressed with the same systemic attention that’s been devoted to standardized test taking.
“As far as I can tell, it’s a brilliant piece of political posturing … that doesn’t seem likely to provide educational opportunity for underserved kids,” wrote Conor Williams, a senior researcher in New America’s education-policy program, in a recent op-ed. “It’s a clear system that serves the political needs of most members of Congress and protects a variety of special interest groups. It combines a thin veneer of civil rights equity with excruciating complexity and uncertain accountability. It takes a relatively simple federal accountability system, removes the teeth, and layers on a bunch of vague responsibilities for states … Just because something is a compromise doesn’t mean that it will do good things for children.”