Getting to Know You …

Eduflack has been holding off on commenting on the ETS survey first reported by EdWeek last week (  The reason for the delay was simple.  While the data has a lot to say, we wanted to see how it is framed in the media.

Surprisingly, ETS’ public opinion poll on No Child Left Behind did not get the coverage it deserved.  Over the past several years, NCLB has gotten pummeled in the media.  Unfunded mandates.  State lawsuits.  Multi-million-dollar political campaign waged by NEA.  And the ongoing drumbeats of concern about management, implementation, funding, accountability, and just about any other educational buzzword that can be thrown around.

With such publicity, its a wonder that NCLB hasn’t just been left for dead.  That’s what makes ETS’ findings so remarkable.  What ETS found was that the more people learned about NCLB — its intentions, its goals, and its successes — the more they liked it.  

Funny that.  When people hear about NCLB’s attributes, they like it.  They like focusing on student achievement.  They like holding our schools and decisionmakers accountable.  They like implementing strategies that are proven effective.  They like knowing that our schools are working.

What does this tell us, as Secretary Spellings continues to prepare for NCLB reauthorization?  It reiterates what Eduflack has said for years.  NCLB is in desperate need of a heavy duty PR campaign extolling the virtues of NCLB and the positive impact it is having on students, teachers, and communities across the nation.  It needs a pure marketing campaign that sells what Americans really, really want — school improvement.

ETS provides ED the mission statement for moving NCLB forward.  This is a pure public engagement campaign, requiring a single message, delivered to multiple audiences through multiple mediums.

The message — NCLB works, and we need more of it.

The audiences — parents, teachers, school administrators, community leaders, the business community, and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels.

The mediums — print media, radio, television, the Internet, outreach to community groups, information dissemination through membership organizations, town hall meetings, conference presentations, and virtually any other way to spread information at the grassroots.  (Kudos, by the way, to Congressman Buck McKeon, who used the ETS numbers to educate his House colleagues on why NCLB needs to be reauthorized.  He took the message directly to a  key audience, not waiting for the media to do so.)

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again.  NCLB reauthorization depends on changing the debate and focusing on the benefits of NCLB and the positive impact it has had on real classrooms and real kids.  Few seem to understand that.  But that is the simple truth here.  We want our schools to be better.  We want our kids to do better.  And NCLB is the path to both. 

David Hoff at EdWeek summed it up best — “The more Americans learn about the No Child Left Behind Act, they more they like it.”  It’s a shame that all of those media outlets who have ravaged NCLB for years have yet to give the ETS study its due.

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