Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm Always Optimistic; But Not For a 'No Child Left Behind' Update

As everyone involved with education policy knows, our education law, now in the form of No Child Left Behind, expired in 2007.  Its programs will continue as long as Congress keeps providing the money.

Much in education has changed since 2001 when NCLB was enacted.  Technology in classrooms today wasn't even invented back then.  Learning and teaching methods have improved.

Unfortunately, Members of Congress -- of all political persuasions -- have talked, but haven't acted.

I was optimistic several weeks ago when I heard about legislation actually being written in both the Senate and the House.

But then I saw the bills.  And then I heard the speeches and comments at the Committee hearings.

Our two political parties have grown further apart in the last six or eight years or so.  Ideological purity is demanded by vocal interest groups.  Compromise has become a dirty word.

The partisan discourse is so bad now, that some even are saying that the common standards developed by the states are a federal plot to control what is taught!

Just to be clear, let's look at two facts:

Fact #1: The common standards being implemented by the states were developed by the National Governors' Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  (See the theme here? States.)

Fact #2: Math is the same in Columbia, MO, Columbia, MD, and Columbia, SC.  (Why should students in some states know less than students in other states?  Math is math wherever you are.)

So now, because of partisanship and the inability of policymakers to reach across the aisle, our kids suffer.

Our kids are missing out on the new adaptive technology that facilitates individualized instruction so they can move forward in areas they have mastered and get help where they need it. 

Our kids are missing out on new interactive materials and teaching methods.

Instead, they are stuck in a one-size-fits-all classroom, based primarily on their age, gearing up for a fill-in-the-bubble test at the end of the year.

Our students deserve better.

When they complete their secondary education -- whether in Columbia, MO, Columbia, MD or Columbia, SC -- they will be competing with students from all over the world, many of whom will have been using the latest technology and adapting as the education world changes.

We can do better as a nation.

I'm always optimistic.  But I must confess it's getting kinda tough when we're talking about updating our education law to promote student success.

The U.S. Department of Education got tired of waiting for Congress and began giving states money and flexibility in return for adopting preferred policies.  But they can go only so far -- and their program has ruffled some feathers on Capitol Hill and fed into the conspiracy theories.

What's the best way forward for our students?

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