From the blog, In the Trenches with School Reform
The name for this post can’t be A Nation at Risk. That’s already been done, but as Diane Ravitch points out in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, sound recommendations stemming from A Nation at Risk (1983) got lost or watered down in the political fray. Now it’s 2010 and we’re all floundering in the aftermath of NCLB. I should call my first post A Nation in Crisis — because I believe that’s where we are as a result of the last 30+ years of educational reform.
I don’t have to write a blog. Diane Ravitch has said everything that needs to be said. And John Merrow warns us where we’re headed in his latest book, Below C Level: How American Education Encourages Mediocrity — and What We Can Do About It. Not only does he discuss how school reform has led to mediocrity, but he warns about the unintended consequences of school reform on our democratic way of life.
But until Arne Duncan reads their books and pays attention — and until President Obama instructs Arne to listen — meaning: stop talking and really listen to educators when they’re trying to educate him on the realities of school reform, I will keep this blog up and running. My hope is that you will leave a comment above, spread the word and get educators and parents to come to this blog, find their state on the map,and leave comments about their specific experiences with NCLB. If enough of you who serve in the trenches are willing to share, we may be able to get our policymakers to take notice. If teachers from 50 states + D.C. reiterate the same concerns over and over, perhaps some policymaker of influence and importance will finally listen.
I could be wrong and all of you will tell me what a delightful, meaningful time you’ve had with NCLB the last nine years. But if I’m right and enough concern is revealed in your comments . . . I’ll categorize your comments and get them available in some kind of organized shape. (I’ll reveal only your username and state.) If you too have been blogging, let me know and I will make sure that others visiting this site know about you. (See bottom of page for who some of these committed and very professional people are.)
Feel free to comment on Race to the Top, the Core Standards and so on.
Then we’ll move on to proposing solutions. (I am adapting Dr. Treffinger’s model for creative problem solving to our problem.) Along the way we’ll try as educators to come to consensus about important topics related to school reform, such as the goals of American education. Let’s try to get the train back on the track before it completely derails. We’d better hurry because sometime in late 2010 or early 2011, decisions about school reform will be made in Washington and will be, as they have these last nine years, out of our control.
Unintended Consequences of NCLB
Every change always seems to have unintended consequences — some good, some pesky, and some totally undesirable. Think of just about any change you’ve made in your classroom or your school. Most times you’ve had to pause and tweak a bit — or a lot. That’s what I’m calling for. Congress needs to pause and assess. It just makes good sense, especially with the sweeping, monumental reform our schools have undergone since NCLB. Once this assessment has taken place, it will be clear to Congress that the unintended consequences have been disastrous. President Obama and Arne Duncan refuse to listen. As for me, I’ve given up on the two of them. Congress is our last hope.
My recommended course of action for Congress: Do not reauthorize NCLB and, along with it, Blueprint for Reform. Reauthorize ESEA as it stood under Title 1. Fully fund IDEA. Then sponsor a Continental Congress on school reform. Give a voice to those in the trenches — educators and parents — and listen to them. They will do what you did not do when NCLB was so quickly passed as President Bush’s first bill. They will start with the end in mind: what are the goals of American education? What are the barriers that have kept us from meeting these goals? You will then begin to see proposals for meaningful reform — but not one set of reforms that must be applied to every school in the nation. And then at the end, where it belongs, you will see addressed what NCLB is largely about — accountability. It’s a worthy and necessary issue. No one is denying that.
My own recommendation: The federal government’s role in school reform should be only to provide direction and clarity of purpose. Support? Yes. Leadership? No. NCLB sent a shock wave throughout the country. It continues to reverberate with unintended consequences that no one could have foreseen. Federal legislation applies to all states and all districts. Interstate commerce, highways and bridges, the military — federal legislation can work in a coherent way. But schools and the populations they serve are diverse, and one law can not fit all. NCLB is the proof.
Teachers, other educators, and parents: go to the map above and record your own comments about your experiences serving in the trenches under NCLB. Explore this website to see what it’s about and what I hope it can help accomplish. Your voice, along with the voices of every educator we can get to this site, can make a difference. Go to my first blog, which is the first of several about my own experiences with school reform as a principal over the last 15 years in Arizona. Anything there sound familiar?
Regardless, before you leave this website, click on your state and leave your comments about school reform. Time is of the essence. It looks now as if Congress will deal with reauthorization of NCLB in January 2011. American Enterprise Institute held a hearing on November 9, 2010, with Congressional aides who are working to reauthorize NCLB. Watch the hearing. You’ll get an idea where things are headed.
Who Else is Trying to Get the Word Across? Where Else Can You Go to Help?
Anthony Cody, who began Teachers’ Letters to Obama on Facebook, writes an excellent blog for Teacher Magazine (edweek.org). Facebook also has a section on “School Reform.” Read teacherken’s posts, called “diaries” at Daily Kos and read his comments there as well as his posts on Huffington Post.org. Read Nancy Flanagan’s comments and many others, on Teachers’ Letters to Obama on Facebook. Nancy Flanagan also has a blog on edweek.org. More and more groups are forming. Go to Uniting 4 Kids and Jesse Turner’s Children are More than Test Scores on Facebook. Join Jesse and Christopher Janotta’s rally July 28-31, including the Save Our Schools Million Teacher March July 30 in Washington, D.C. So many of you are trying to get the word out. I continue to update a list of blogs on the sidebar to the right. If I’ve overlooked you, let me know.