Thursday, July 27, 2006

The ASCD on the NCLB Reauthorization

One of the perks of being a member of the ASCD is the Education Update report that comes 12 times a year. It’s a quick read, with only two or three articles in each 8-page issue, but the writing is very good and the topics are always timely.

The lead story this on the upcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind act. The American Enterprise Institute held a forum in April on the current state of the act. The first two quotes come from Frederick Hess and Mike Petrilli, both of the Fordham Foundation and the hosts of my favorite podcast, the Education Gadfly Show.

“Today, the once-tranquil consensus over the law has given way to bickering and fierce debate.”—Frederick Hess

This seems a little naïve coming from Hess; people have been arguing about NCLB since it became law in 2001, and Hess has been at the forefront of many of those arguments, particularly in terms of school choice.

For his part, Petrilli asserts that NCLB has three goals:

  1. Closing the achievement gap.
  2. Helping school systems overcome challenges associated with economic disadvantage.
  3. Providing external incentive for intrastate change.

I’ll agree with #1, but I’ll argue with #2 pretty strongly. We know from research that the correlation between socio-economic status and academic achievement is nearly perfect; what does NCLB do about that, besides giving kids a chance to go to a higher-SES school? As for #3, let’s be clear that these are unanimously negative incentives as you lose your money, your kids, and your jobs.

There’s also a great piece from Alice Johnson Cain, who works in the office of Rep. George Miller of California, talking about the impossibility of achieving 100% proficiency. “Which percent do we accept as being unreachable?” she asks, and it’s probably the most important question in this NCLB era. Would you be comfortable looking at a school where 90% of the kids of all races are passing their tests? What do you say about the school that has 20 black kids but “only” passes 17 of them; failing, or a school of distinction?

NCLB is unquestionably the biggest piece of education legislation ever; it’s also the most debated, and for good reason. I don’t want to see NCLB gutted, because the mission is worthwhile, but there has to be some reason brought into it.

I’ll leave it to others to figure out the impact if the Democrats take over the House in November.


Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I dropped my ASCD membership a couple of years ago becaus I found their main magazine to be, um, boring-- filled with articles that didn't really say anything.

The books they publish are sometimes good though-- I'm currently plowing through Understanding by Design.

They keep sending me letters begging me to came on back to the ol/ homestead.

I am deeply interested in curriculum development. I could justify the cost of yet another professional membership, if the magazin actually provoked reflection.

What has been your experience?

3:40 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Overall I've been pretty happy with the magazine. Some issues miss me entirely (redesigning high school, for example), and there are some articles that say exactly nothing and take 8 pages to do it, but I think it's been worth it.

The books are a lot more hit and miss. I really liked this last one on teaming, but some of the others (Integrating DI and UBD, for example) were impenetrable.

2:14 PM  
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5:03 AM  

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