What public school administrators want from policy makers

School systems should not be required to spend local and state funds to implement federal mandates.

Learning Leadership column, March 2012 edition of eSchool News—Last month, the American Association of School Administrators’ Executive Committee and Governing Board came together at our national conference in Houston to approve our legislative agenda. The year ahead looms as a politically charged period, leading up to the presidential and congressional elections. Much of what ordinarily might happen on Capitol Hill won’t happen because of political posturing. Consequently, we have little hope that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be reauthorized prior to the elections. And that’s a shame, because there is substantial agreement between the two parties on key points.

Our governing body numbers more than 150 superintendents from around the country. They represent large and small districts, rural and suburban, wealthy and poor. They are, in fact, representative of every school district in America. You can be certain that the positions emerging from that group represent what our public school districts want in legislation coming out of Washington.

First and foremost, we want regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The waiver process that the Obama administration has implemented is a replacement for the stimulus dollars that became the carrot originally used to get states and school districts to adhere to the administration’s policy directives. If you want regulatory relief, then you must exchange the old regulations for these new ones. Those states and districts that go along and win approval will get regulatory relief. But the vast majority of children in our schools still will be subject to regulations that both the president and the education secretary have admitted are inadequate and in need of revision.…Read More

Schools need relief from onerous regulation

The National School Boards Association and AASA have launched a petition to the Education Department and Congress asking for regulatory relief.

Learning Leadership column, July/August edition of eSchool NewsThe Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), renamed under its last reiteration as No Child Left Behind, was due for reauthorization three years ago. NCLB, as it is popularly referred to, brought a new level of federal intrusion into local school district affairs. A surprising development, given that the law was spearheaded by a conservative Republican administration that, in previous years, had threatened to dissolve the U.S. Department of Education and take the federal government out of the business of education.

In the 10 years that NCLB has been in place, the law has been praised and cursed. It was originally praised for its intent to leave no child behind—to close the widening achievement gap that exists between the haves and have-nots. Whereas in the past, school systems reported their performance using the statistical mean, NCLB required districts to disaggregate their data and report the performance of categories of students by race, poverty level, language dominance, and special needs. This uncovered a very different performance profile. Districts that in the past prided themselves on the mean performance of all of their students found themselves apologizing for the poor performance of sub-categories previously hidden in the averages. That was a good thing.

Unfortunately, the makers of the law got carried away with their metrics as they further developed the concept of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Under that rubric, school districts had to specify increasing levels of academic achievement that eventually would lead to all children meeting their state’s level of required performance by 2014. Furthermore, each year, each sub-category of students in each school would be required to meet the established performance benchmark or be labeled as having failed to achieve AYP. If one sub-category in one school failed to achieve AYP, the entire school would be deemed to have failed AYP. If a school in a district failed to achieve AYP, the entire district was deemed to have failed AYP.…Read More