Sunday, April 01, 2007

No Child Left Behind; No Child Propelled Ahead

Originally uploaded by evetsggod.
Several weeks ago, I read a great bit at Teach42 about what things would be like if high school were organized like No Child Left Behind. Steve at Teach42 first saw this at Hoagies Gifted.

There are eight main points... here are just the first two:
1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.
You've really got to read the whole thing...

There are rumblings that perhaps No Child Left Behind is, finally, going to be left behind itself. From Leader Talk, we learn Sweeping Changes in NCLB and DoE. Chris Lehmann tells us,
Apparently, there are some major announcements coming out of the Department of Education this week. According to a friend of mine at the DoE, "Queen of All Testing" Margaret Spellings is on her way out to be replaced by Doug Christensen, State Education Commissioner of Nebraska. Christensen is best known for creating the STARS (School-Based Teacher-Lead Assessment Reporting System) program, a portfolio-driven system for meeting NCLB requirements.

Politically, this can only be interpreted as a major shift in priorities for DoE. The rumors are swirling that Bush doesn't think NCLB will pass reauthorization, what with the increasing GOP opposition to the bill. Bush has long put NCLB out there as one of the major pieces of his domestic agenda, and despite opposition from teachers unions, parent groups and others, he and Sec't Spelling have long championed NCLB as both "good policy and good politics."
Mr. Lehmann also posts part of the comments which will be made by Dr. Christensen sometime later this week:
I have found that in schools where classroom-based assessment is led by teachers in collaboration with their administrators, that cultures develop where personal and professional renewal lives and thrives. I have found in schools with classroom-based assessment to be places where passion is back and it is welcomed. I have found that classroom-based assessment creates places where the passion is back and in these schools it is okay to be passionate about our work; our profession, our kids--all of our kids. And, I have found classroom-based assessment to create places where the professional spirits of educators can thrive and places where their hearts embrace each child and every child. Aren’t these the kinds of places where all of us would like to live and do our work?
We shall see.

All I know is that one of the reasons I would never teach in a public school is the over-reliance on NCLB and interference from too many layers on what goes on in the classroom. If teachers are professionals, then let them be professional. Does the federal government micro-manage accountants or doctors or lawyers? Sure guidelines exist, but not like in public education.

In the last several weeks, I've met with two heads of schools who have both been adamant about one thing: we teach not to fill heads with facts, but we teach so that our students can think, can analyze, and can communicate. We must focus on the essential questions, and the essential questions are not measured by standardized tests.

For those who don't recognize the picture, that's the Department of Education in Washington, DC. I saw it several months ago on a trip to Coast Guard Headquarters; the Department of Education is located near L'Enfant Plaza, home to the Department of Transportation, the former department for the Coast Guard. I saw those wooden structures and wondered what they were. I think somebody wants the staffers at the Department of Education to think they're working in a school house.

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