Michael Winerip, New York Times columnist and favorite target of Eduwonk, is retiring his column on education issues after four years.
In his final shot, he makes several excellent points about No Child Left Behind. However, he has a good question that strikes to the heart of the law.
As readers know, I’m not a fan of No Child Left Behind, the 2002 federal law aimed at raising education quality. Instead of helping teachers, for me it’s a law created by politicians who distrust teachers. Because teachers’ judgment and standards are supposedly not reliable, the law substitutes a battery of state tests that are supposed to tell the real truth about children’s academic progress.
The question is: How successful can an education law be that makes teachers the enemy?
If we aren’t going to place a large degree of trust in teachers to evaluate the progress of their students and make judgement calls on how best to help them learn, then we may as well give up on universal public education as a national goal.
But that’s not saying that every teacher should be left alone in their classroom to do as they please with no standards and no accountability. Indeed, that would be worse than the inflexible one-size-fits-all system we are headed towards.
There is a middle ground where instruction is adapted to fit the different learning styles of students. Where we don’t proscribe the same goals for every single child.
Where teachers are treated like professionals, with professional levels of training and support.
No matter how much supporters of NCLB may wish it so, the art and science that is teaching cannot be automated. There is no way to exclude the teacher from education.
Not real education, anyway. If all you want students to be able to do is memorize facts and mechanical processes, then you might be able to devise a computerized system that will work for some students.
For real learning to occur, the type that prepares students to live and work in a constantly changing world, you need a highly trained, well-supported human being.