#ReformNCLB – We Know It Stinks, What Are We Waiting For?

 

 

There is growing frustration among educators regarding the direction, or lack thereof, in regards to a serious reform effort for the public education system in the United States.   In fact, some would suggest that we, the educators, are the problem.  When you think about it, can you argue against the fact that people who are charged with leading America’s schools and classrooms have given in to the concept that a standardized test/curriculum and “high stakes testing” are the solution.

Will Richardson summed up the frustration pretty clearly with his post today How Can You Not Be Angry? He summed up the whole frustrating scenario clearly stating:

“As a community, we’re in a fight, whether we like it or not, yet we seem more inclined to figure out Google+ than to make our voices heard to the policy makers who seem to have no desire to figure out what’s best for our children and care more about their re-election campaigns.”

I can’t help thinking about in the terms of an analogy with fast food.  The education of our children is like a long road trip where we have options in regards to nourishment. Will we make the easy choice and go with the convenient option of drive-thru windows and chains that offer unhealthy short-term fixes and come up short in regards to long term sustenance.  Or will we put in the extra effort to do what we know is best for our children by planning healthy options which support their physical well being.

Now, I ask the same question in regards to the intellectual health of our children.  Will we take the easy way out and test them with low-level tests that have nothing to do with preparing them for long-term success? On second thought, I shouldn’t ask questions that have already been answered.  I guess the modified question is how long will we take the easy way out?

If you feel change is needed I encourage you to check out the video above which was posted on Angela Maiers’ blog post NCLB – Our Call to Action. Lisa Nielsen has also created a Reform NCLB Wiki where we can share our thoughts on this topic and consolidate all of our reform ideas in one place.   While skepticism abounds due the endless conversations in Washington and across the country which ignore and/or disregard the voice of educators, we need to remember that this is about our students and not take it personally.  What other options do we have?

In conclusion, I would ask our friends from other countries to chime in with their thoughts on what is working in their public schools.  I know there are some exciting things happening in parts of Canada. Please help our kids get the schools they deserve!

8 Comments

  1. Dave Meister said:

    Patrick,
    Thank you for starting this discussion. We (you, me, and everyone else who discusses in these spaces) have to take the argument to the decision makers. On a micro level we make decisions in our classrooms, schools and districts, but we cannot affect state and national policy in our own buildings or by pontificating on twitter or blogs. We have to take our arguments to those who make the decisions. We have to change our arguments from they (Duncan, Gates, Christie…et. al) are wrong to we are right and here is what we need to do. We have to demonstrate what works. We need to get our school communities energized and involved in the fight to make policy makers take notice that we are very dissatisfied with the direction they are taking us. They will listen to voters. We must create a voice that does embrace change, but a change that is good for the STUDENTS, not the politicians that are running for office. Will Richardson is right. Quit worrying about Google+ and your Klout score and get out there and make a difference in whatever way you can.

    July 26, 2011
    • Dave – Thanks for the comments. I feel like I (we) do spend a lot of time on here talking about what is best and that we do not spend enough time with advocacy. I think that this needs to be our priority during the upcoming school year. We need to start and/or continue to engage our communities in discussions around what is best for our students. Concrete examples of best practice will certainly help our cause.

      July 26, 2011
  2. Jessica said:

    Patrick and Dave,
    I think this is a great article and you make an excellent point (one that I also addressed on my recent fledgling blog.) I completely agree that we need to use our knowledge, passion, and expertise to inform those who are in the position to help to put the necessary changes in place for our students. As I mentioned in my blog, I believe that one of the best resources to do this, Twitter, is right under the noses of those in these positions and they don’t seem to be taking advantage! There are many great ideas from exceptional educators being promoted on Twitter for many to see and utilise in their decision making processes. Along with promoting our ideas via our collective websites focused on reform, we should leverage our contacts and networks on Twitter to inform those in advantageous positions to move forward with our suggested reforms. Egyptian reformists used twitter to their advantage…why don’t US educators too?

    July 26, 2011
    • Jessica – There are growing examples of social media changing our world (i.e. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran…) I agree, we need to use our networks to advocate for the changes we need to make in education!

      July 26, 2011
  3. I agreee that a forum such as twititer facebook web page or “Connected Prinicipals” makes an excellent soap box for a gorup of advocates (no matter how apparently ” powerless”) to steer towards port. Aim should be towards informing the community (district) and having them amplify the message. Communication is always key. And might I suggest that the #140edu conference in NYC on August 2nd and 3rd 2011 is a good start towards amalgamating. Laura and I hope to see you there. Please say hello!!!!! Fred

    July 26, 2011
  4. David Wees said:

    Canadian education differs greatly in a few respects to US education.

    1. We have a (reasonably) equitable funding formula in Canada, with MORE resources sent to school districts which need more money. Funding flows (mostly) from the Provincial level with very little funding from municipalities and Federal money accounting for only a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of overall spending on K-12 education in Canada (with the exception of the First Nations people, for whom education is often funded at the Federal level through a horrible piece of legislation called the Indian Act).

    2. We spend much more resources as a country (even with Prime Minister Harper trying to change this path) on reducing the effects of poverty on our students.

    3. Our existing accountability measures are focused on school improvement, rather than increasingly focused on the individuals, such as the students and teachers in our system. For example, the Foundation Skills Assessment that students in 4th and 7th grade do has NO influence on whether they advance to the next grade. The 10th grade provincial exams are worth only 10% of a student’s mark, and therefore have only a small influence on whether they graduate. Further to this point, when a 3rd party Conversative think-tank called the Fraser Institute started using FSA results to rank students, our Ministry of Education stated unequivocally that this was not a rational thing to do.

    4. Entering teaching is highly competitive with most people applying to Teacher’s colleges being rejected. When someone graduates from college, most of them do not get a full-time job in teaching, as they are forced to wait sometimes years for an opening.

    July 26, 2011
    • David Wees said:

      Errr. The Fraser Institute ranks schools, not students, my bad. Please reread point number 3 with this correction. 🙂

      July 26, 2011
  5. Patrick,

    Thank you so much for moving this conversation forward and for all you do to provide hope and inspiration to those trying to live within the current system while trying to change it.

    August 2, 2011

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