What Failed?

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

A Mind is Too Beautiful to Waste

The beliefs — test-based accountability, financial flexibility, and “choice” — the principles — the pillars upon which No Child Left Behind (NCLB) promised “to close the achievement gap” — have FAILED.

The theory was hailed by state education officialdom prior to NCLB. So all-in-all this grand experiment, concocted by those unwilling to listen to people in the trenches, had decades to “work” to “close the achievement gap.” It failed; it’s a FACT!

People across America are waking up to the reality that testing itself is wasting instructional time and our money. Parents are seeing that test-based accountability led to a narrow and boring curriculum for their children. It is one of the reasons many left the traditional public system to home-school.

Many are also using the “choice” part of this failed equation. But the reality is that “choice-based reform” has not led to reform. And it must be remembered that test-based accountability was used to declare schools as failed thus trumpeting the need for “choice” through a charter system. Failed and double failed!

But what of “flexibility”? Ah, that began as a token gesture of local control. Giving the local people the ability to spend Title I money (federal education dollars for low-income students) in a manner they saw fit was actually part of the original 1965 law. But back then it was understood that the money would be directed to serve the needs of those low-income students. When the states became convinced that test-based accountability was the way to go, the stage was set for federal dollars to be spent on this new focus. The public was duped and double duped.

It is time to view education differently – accountability, flexibility, and choice have failed to deliver on what it promised. And in the process, it did damage. Face that fact. Riding on accountability, flexibility, and choice as reform strategies is like riding a dead horse. Have a little respect. Dismount and bury it!

Choice in Education Reform

When a school doesn’t provide what you think it should for one of your own, it’s an easy call. You want to take action. You want to see something done about it.

When you have great schools, it’s hard to take the time to think about the effect underperforming schools have on you and yours. But give it some thought. An under-educated society costs us all. That is why, as a civil society, we need great schools for all. But that fact has not yet motivated us to act. Education reform requires personal sacrifice from us all. It starts with each of us making a conscious choice to act and depends on us finding or creating the opportunities to do so — big or small.

As a nation, we have serious problems to face.

No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – ESEA) cemented the direction of education “reform” without bringing to the table those who understand the needs of our communities and our children — the real stakeholders — the People.

That federal law combined with our financial wrong turns as a nation and the misguided reforms of the last three decades has brought public education to a crossroads.

Choices must be made.

Provide standardized education for the masses with personalized instruction for the lucky ones and those that can afford it, or, provide equal access to quality education?

Allow teaching to become another low-wage trade, or, remain a profession with a standard of practice that we can continuously improve upon?

Put our education dollars into the pockets of private investors, or, invest in supporting and strengthening the institution of public education?

Continue to follow the current pretenses of reform, or, solve our problems?

Rise up, people. Embrace the solutions.

Choice in School Reform

School reforms are failing to improve schools universally because standardization of children is not the solution to the systems problems. The “reformers” in control of the message are promoting more and “better” standards while overlooking the fact that the individuality, diversity, and unique character of Americans defies standardization.

But now — are we so tired of hearing the same ole’ education rhetoric that we no longer hear the voices rising up across this country asking to be heard? The voices are those of parents asking for something better, teachers wanting to teach what children need to know, and children asking us to care about what they need. They are all voices crucial to any real reform conversation.

It’s time to take control of that conversation…word-by-word.

“Choice” is one word that clearly strikes at our core values as Americans. But our right to choose is one thing; our care in choosing is quite another.

Choice matters. Consider this; informed choices based on various perspectives are more likely to get to what is right.

Choice matters. Consider this; informed choices based on various perspectives are more likely to get to what is right.

We must consider the fact that reform requires a problem be identified and the faulty practice creating the problem be replaced with a better one. For responsible decision-making to occur, It requires our careful analysis. It requires we put aside emotional responses, look at the facts; consider all our choices and the potential consequences of each.

To choose wisely, we must understand that true reform will support, guide, produce, and ensure practices that improve every child’s education.