Leaving No Child Left Behind… Behind
Now is a wonderful time to be thinking about changing our educational paradigm, and President Obama agrees. His administration has recently allowed states to opt-out of No Child Left Behind requirements. This new potential freedom is exhilarating, but terrifying too. After all, one’s current reality even if it’s bad is at least familiar. My district’s superintendent, when first interviewed by the Bismarck Tribune about the option (10/25/11), said, “[as for No Child Left Behind], I know what we have right now, what is good, and what I don’t like about it. I’m not clear on what the waiver would change … I can’t say I’m for or against it.” My initial reaction when I read that was “WHAT?!” But then I put myself in her shoes. It’s a huge system, and if a state is going to opt-out, they have to create something else to determine the success of students and teachers alike. The idea of it made me tremble a bit. (North Dakota is, by the way, one of the 40+ states that have submitted their intent to request the waiver.)
There are a couple of things to know about the NCLB waiver option. And they’re best explained by the US Department of Education’s FAQ page. But I’ll summarize a couple of points here.
- Emphasis will be placed on student growth instead of an across-the-board test score. This means that kids learning at different levels can each be viewed as successful if they attain individual academic growth. This also means that teachers will be accountable not only to struggling students, but also to kids at the top of the class, making sure that they too move forward, even if they started out ahead of the rest. This is essential to the success of our gifted population, who have been embarrassingly neglected under NCLB.
- Testing will still be part of the deal, but only annually. This is a vast improvement over the current system of testing in fall, winter, and spring. And again, the test will be de-emphasized as an end-all goal, and seen instead of one of many tools to assess student growth.
- Teachers will still be at least partially evaluated based on their students’ success. However, according to the US Dept. of Education, student test scores will only be one part of a larger teacher assessment package.
It’s not easy creating a dynamic educational plan that will meet the needs of thousands of children with unique issues, personalities, learning styles, and home environments. But sticking with a system that is crippling our teachers and schools and students just isn’t an option. Tomorrow I’ll share some ideas about how we could take advantage of this new climate and change our system.