The next president has a unique opportunity to start from scratch in education policy, without the deadweight of a failed, inherited No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The new president and Congress can recapture the "small d" democratic mantle by restoring local control of education, while initiating policies for which the federal government is uniquely suited -- providing better achievement data and equalizing the states' fiscal capacity to provide for all children.
This opportunity exists because NCLB is dead. It will not be reauthorized -- not this year, not ever. The coalition that promoted the 2001 bipartisan law has hopelessly splintered, although NCLB's advocates in the administration and the Congress continue to imagine (at least publicly) that tinkering can put it back together.
NCLB, requiring annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8 (and one such test in high school), represents an unprecedented federal takeover of education. It punishes schools not making "adequate yearly progress" toward having all students proficient at "challenging" standards by 2014, regardless of students' socioeconomic disadvantages or even of their cognitive disabilities.
Many Republicans supported NCLB out of loyalty to President Bush and because Karl Rove assured them that their vow to improve minority achievement would entice African Americans away from the Democrats. But now, with Democratic congressional majorities and a possible presidency, Republicans have rediscovered their belief in local control of education. Few now support reauthorization. . . .
"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972
Monday, December 17, 2007
Rothstein on the End of NCLB
A clip from the American Prospect (ht to Monty Neill):