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Viewpoint: How we should improve on NCLB

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech describes what’s wrong with the nation’s education law—and how his organization believes lawmakers should fix it

AASA hopes educators and school reformers will work together to improve NCLB.

(Editor’s note: This article marks the debut of a new monthly column from AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech on school leadership. It appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of eSchool News.)

From Feb. 17-19, the “Great Education Conversation” will take place in Denver as part of the American Association of School Administrators’ national conference. It will be a dialogue between traditional educators and those the media has branded as reformers.

Though we all share the same goal—providing our children with the best education possible—we differ as to the means to achieve that goal. AASA’s thinking is that we might be better off working together than at odds with each other. In line with that theme, the conference will be preceded by two days of “conversations” between superintendents, school board presidents, and labor union presidents, intent on advancing student achievement through improved labor-management relations. The event is being jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, AASA, the National School Boards Association, the Council of Great City Schools, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association; the Ford Foundation is underwriting this invitation-only event.

An important theme of the great conversation will be the future of education as determined by the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Obama administration’s success during the lame-duck session of Congress in December has given me renewed hope that perhaps, just perhaps, the reauthorization of ESEA might have a chance of passing this legislative session. In preparation for the discussions that will precede passage, I dug up my old, wrinkled, and frayed copy of the administration’s “A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

Re-reading it for the umpteenth time reminds me there are many ideas in this document that I really like. We have been laboring for so long under the unreasonable and unrealistic demands of No Child Left Behind that we are anxious for changes in what President Obama refers to as a “flawed law” in his introduction to the Blueprint. Indeed, the president’s introduction speaks to the many changes that educators have looked forward to since passage of NCLB.

In laying a foundation for the changes that must take place, the president says, “The countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” This is a clear reference to the fact that the United States, once the leader of the world in college completion, now ranks 11th. The president wants to regain our leadership role in education, and so he sets a new goal: By the year 2020, the U.S. once again will lead the world in college completion.

At first, this seems a more achievable goal than NCLB’s task of having every school in America making Adequate Yearly Progress by 2014. At this stage of the game, it appears likely that most schools in America will have failed to make AYP by 2014, including many schools acknowledged to be among the best in the country. This anomaly has less to do with the quality of the school and more with the logistical requirements for making AYP. Thus, the need for change.

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Comments:

  1. wallace

    February 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    We desperately need more educators to speak up about what works and what doesn’t work. The repair of the NCLB law should be a collective effort and not decided by merely one person. Because the issue of education is as dear to all of our success as a country, we should all be included in the conversation. As an educator for 12 years, I relish hearing ideas and suggestions as well as comments from outsiders as to what is working and what does not. One of the toughest roles a teacher plays is being able to have clear vision on both sides of the desk. Let’s use the resources we have as a nation and become extremely successful and proud with what we can produce. One bad apple does not destroy the entire bushel.

  2. wallace

    February 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    We desperately need more educators to speak up about what works and what doesn’t work. The repair of the NCLB law should be a collective effort and not decided by merely one person. Because the issue of education is as dear to all of our success as a country, we should all be included in the conversation. As an educator for 12 years, I relish hearing ideas and suggestions as well as comments from outsiders as to what is working and what does not. One of the toughest roles a teacher plays is being able to have clear vision on both sides of the desk. Let’s use the resources we have as a nation and become extremely successful and proud with what we can produce. One bad apple does not destroy the entire bushel.

  3. eburton

    February 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Your last statement is unfortunately the greatest problem. We need to put state funds in the hands of the decision makers of each district and we need to have district leaders that are fiscally responsible as well as due diligence to insure funds are invested wisely to do the most good for the most children.
    Erika Burton, Ph.D.
    Stepping Stones Together, Founder
    Empowering parental involvement in early literacy programs
    http://www.steppingstonestogether.com

  4. eburton

    February 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Your last statement is unfortunately the greatest problem. We need to put state funds in the hands of the decision makers of each district and we need to have district leaders that are fiscally responsible as well as due diligence to insure funds are invested wisely to do the most good for the most children.
    Erika Burton, Ph.D.
    Stepping Stones Together, Founder
    Empowering parental involvement in early literacy programs
    http://www.steppingstonestogether.com

  5. M

    February 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    We didn’t test our way to the moon. We didn’t test our way into the digital age. The mega-billion dollar testing and educational data collection businesses serve big corporations but do not serve children. We need to put the money in the classroom. Teachers need to be accountable to their students, the students’ families and the local communities (not the federal government). As one of the most envied educational systems in the world, Finland uses almost no standardized tests; they select, pay, and treat their educators like professionals; and they take care of their children who have universal healthcare and never go to school hungry. We have sent lots of delegations over there; why don’t we learn from them??

  6. M

    February 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    We didn’t test our way to the moon. We didn’t test our way into the digital age. The mega-billion dollar testing and educational data collection businesses serve big corporations but do not serve children. We need to put the money in the classroom. Teachers need to be accountable to their students, the students’ families and the local communities (not the federal government). As one of the most envied educational systems in the world, Finland uses almost no standardized tests; they select, pay, and treat their educators like professionals; and they take care of their children who have universal healthcare and never go to school hungry. We have sent lots of delegations over there; why don’t we learn from them??