Even though the nation’s elementary and secondary education law expired in 2007 and efforts to revise it have fallen short, new energies to find a compromise position are being discussed in Washington as I write this. Of course there are opposing views. The Republican-controlled House wants to “eliminate more than 70 federal education programs while allowing states to come up with their own accountability systems. It eliminates requirements that poorly performing schools use one of four models for change. It also repeals a requirement that schools hire “highly qualified” teachers, meaning those who have bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials.” On the other hand, Democrats who “are unlikely to vote for the Republican bill, would like to give states more flexibility to hold schools accountable and improve them. However, Democrats do retain the idea that poorly performing schools should be required to improve.”
For me the question is this, “what does history tell us about how school districts work when they are not being held accountable to specific requirements?” To my way of thinking, holistically, educators have been more focused on the adults and working conditions than on the learner and closing the achievement gap. Today, as a result of federal insistence on “information about individual student achievement, including information broken out for various groups such as Latinos, African Americans and low-income students” improvements have been made in student performance. Even in the face of budget cuts in California standardized test scores have improved and it appears that the achievement gap is being closed, albeit slowly. With the advent of No Child Left Behind, school districts have paid attention to the academic performance of all youth in ways that they had not done in the past. States, “in exchange for federal funds, have held schools accountable for improvement” or required that failing schools close. I do not believe that we would have made these gains in achievement without these accountability measures.
That being said, I certainly do not think that the current standardized test scores measure what youth need to know in order to be successful in life in the 21st Century. I would welcome a lively debate about that rather than the No Child Left Behind discussion which will be a political hot potato. Let’s take a look at what really matters—individual learning and preparation for the future.
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