Changing education pt 1

This past Sunday night I was co-hosting the Total Tutor educational hour on BlogTalk Radio with Neil Haley.  As we were weaving through a number of educationally directed topics we began discussing how the US compares to the rest of the world.  The usual machinations were thrown back and forth in an attempt to trick one another and to make our points seem more realistic.  Then Neil asked the most salient question of the night, “If you could, how would you change education in the US?”  Which brings me to the point of this and my next few blog entries.

My first move, now that I am the grand poobah of education, would to eliminate completely the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  This act, on the surface would seem to be a great idea.  Means testing all students, holding schools accountable for the education of the students in the classroom, creating state mandated benchmarks that every school in that state must meet and enforcing it with the threat of loss of funding and government takeover.  We can argue, and have multiple times, how NCLB was created but lets just say that it was a bi-partisan effort and both political parties were and are still wrong.

Where NCLB falls woefully short is in its goals and enforcement.  First, NCLB is a federal mandate.  As Gerald W. Bracey a former George Mason associate professor at George Mason University eloquently laid out, NCLB is not based on research, is unnecessarily punitive, and its goals are absurdly unattainable.  In what world does anyone think that 100% of all students can and will be proficient in math and reading!?!?!?  Show me any industry where 100% is the minimum standard by which they are measured, it can and should be a goal, but not the base minimum by which they are measured.

Another flaw of NCLB is that there is no federal standard for all students.  The standards are created and measured by each individual state.  This means that states can and have gerrymandered the educational standards of their states.  All a state has to do is apply for a federal waver and changed can be made.  One example of this being done is in Pennyslvania.  Because schools were not meeting the standards set by NCLB, the state of Pennysvania borrowed an idea from North Carolina and instituted PVAAS.  This is a value-added system of measuring the academic growth of students over a series of years and a series of standardized exams.  Students, and by proxy schools, do better on the PVAAS than they do with NCLB testing.  So the state looks awesome because they can say that their children and being educated better, schools are happy because they are receiving a little less heat from politicians and parents are happy because their child is being taken care of.

Eliminating NCLB totally frees schools to be bolder in meeting the needs of the modern student.  It will help to create a more professional environment inside schools be releasing the constant federal oversite of education (which is unconstitutional by the way).  Bringing back state or local control over education will also create an environment that encourages the publics accountablitiy of their own schools.