AASA advocates ‘to ensure that no additional harm is done by well-meaning legislators who do not realize the potential havoc their actions will wreak upon an already overburdened [education

(Editor’s note: This article appeared in the “Learning Leadership” section of the March 2011 edition of eSchool News.)

The American Association of School Administrators’ mission has evolved into an advocacy role. As the oldest and largest organization representing school superintendents and other school system leaders, AASA now sees its primary function as the voice of school administrators in the nation’s capital. In fulfillment of that function, AASA’s Executive Committee and Governing Board met at the National Conference on Education in Denver last month to approve the association’s legislative agenda.

Advocating on behalf of public education is critical at a time when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is due to be reauthorized, and our public system of education seems to be under constant attack from the media and self-appointed “reformers.” Regardless of the opinion those outside of education might hold, it is those of us who have long worked within the system who know it best and can bring about the changes that will lead to a high-quality education for all of our children.

To those critics who would point a finger and say, “Then why haven’t you made those changes,” we would respectfully suggest that they join us in changing or eliminating the myriad of federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations that have set the antiquated stage upon which educational acts take place.

Consequently, we advocate to ensure that no additional harm is done by well-meaning legislators and regulators who do not realize the potential havoc their actions will wreak upon an already overburdened system. We point to No Child Left Behind as a specific example. Although there were positive elements to that law, such as the reporting on the performance of sub-categories of students so that we could all see the sins covered by a school-wide average, the overemphasis on standardized testing and the metrics behind Adequate Yearly Progress have even led the president of the United States to refer to NCLB as a “flawed law.”

Along those lines, if ESEA is not reauthorized this year, then we beg the administration to use its regulatory power to grant significant relief from the punishments bestowed upon schools that fail to make AYP. Choice and Supplementary Educational Services are costly and have not proven to be workable solutions, but more and more schools will be forced to adopt them as the number of schools not making AYP increases.