There is so much good stuff in this editorial by Julia Steiny that I’m tempted to steal the whole thing. Instead, here are some large chunks of the best thoughts.
Whatever the law’s virtues — and it definitely has some — the copious testing it demands is specifically to identify the deficient. (Forget building on strength.) The law then addresses those found wanting with threats and punishments. As any parent or organizational leader will tell you, a purely punitive improvement strategy will eventually have negative results.
I’m not so sure about the law’s virtues but she right about the punitive part. NCLB is all stick and no carrot.
She [Pamela Gray-Bennett, director of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges] says, "It is less common for public schools to think of themselves as having a unique culture. They’re all caught up in the notion that all students learn at the same rate, and at the same time, and that there’s a clear body of knowledge. Which is remarkably arrogant," she snarls. "Remarkably arrogant. The state and the feds always say: You can do it your way, and you can do other things too on top of these requirements. But they can’t. They’re exhausted. They feel a conspiracy of sameness. Teachers are no longer encouraged to create."
NCLB is a one-size-fits-all law based on the assumption that every child in every classroom in every school has the same educational needs and abilities.
Not that the schools are showing any heroism in the midst of this mess. Gray-Bennett says, "Most schools stand like victims and don’t push back with indicators of their own. Schools need to decide what they think is effective and how to assess it. They must design indicators and publish them. Public schools have largely failed to demonstrate their effectiveness in their own way. Good ones bring the public in and demonstrate effectiveness to their public.
While there certainly needs to be some minimal standards for schools in this country, they also need to be able to tailor their educational program to fit the unique group of students who come through the front door.
Interestingly, the federal government and NCLB strongly advocate that parents have more choice among schools, though their main strategy is to offer vouchers to private schools that are entirely off the hook regarding public accountability. With Gray-Bennett, I absolutely agree with the need for more truly distinct schools, and I would add, more choice among them. Instead, however, the public schools are increasingly becoming sisters to those in Camazotz [a reference to A Wrinkle in Time].
It’s time to rethink the direction this law has taken us.
Exactly! There’s more. Read the whole thing.