It’s a new year and time to cook up some fresh thinking.
We desperately need it in education. Not that we don’t have lots of new ideas and innovations floating around; we surely do. Rather, we need new ways of thinking so we can have smarter discussions about controversial pedagogical and policy issues, build stronger partnerships between teachers and parents, and provide a better education for our children.
As the Fordham Institute noted a few days ago, this week is the twelfth birthday of the No Child Left Behind Act. Why is that important? Well, this is the year we were supposed to reach (near) universal proficiency:
Each State shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress. The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001–2002 school year, all students in each group described in subparagraph (C)(v) will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement
– No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, section 1111(2)(F)
Everyone knows that didn’t happen. (Had it happened, it would have been a far more significant accomplishment than landing a man on the moon, the ambitious goal for the nation set by President Kennedy in 1961.) However, some good things did happen as a result of NCLB. For starters, parents now have access to much better information about how well students are doing on tests of reading, writing and mathematics skills. Moreover, as Mike Petrilli noted last week in his reflections on the 12-year anniversary, we have seen some significant gains in student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In fourth grade reading and math, for example, students are about half a year ahead of where they were twelve years ago.
But the testing and accountability regime put in place by No Child Left Behind has lost its power to move us any further forward. Teachers are neither afraid of the sanctions (which have been largely removed) nor inspired by the vision of pushing all students to proficiency.
We need new ways of thinking. But what are they?
Starting next week, I’m going to take a crack at this. I’ll share some reflections about fundamental issues such as the purpose and scope of education, and who should be ultimately responsible for educating our children. I’ll propose some fresh ways of thinking about standards, testing, choice and accountability. And I’ll share some thoughts on implications for education policy-making and GreatSchools in 2014 and beyond.
Stick with me for the next few weeks; I promise an interesting ride!