Today, we have a new study to underscore that notion. Education Next magazine has released new findings from an NCLB study led by Harvard University’s JFK School and conducted by researchers at Harvard, University of Chicago, and Brown University. http://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/8806742.html Special thanks to Alexander Russo and This Week in Education for throwing the spotlight on the study.
What does it tell us? Sure, it demonstrates that the American people generally support NCLB and want to see it reauthorized, despite what some in the vocal minority may say. Interestingly, folks seem to be more supportive of NCLB than they are of their own local schools. This is a far cry from data in the early 1990s, where people said the public schools were in disarray, but their own local schools were doing great.
While that’s all well and good, the study’s most interesting data comes in the area of accountability. If you read the popular media, you would think there was an Evita-like uprising against testing and the quantitative assessment of student achievement. It is thought that most Americans are out there bemoaning teaching to the test, worried that we’re overtesting our kids, and raising their collective blood pressures about “high stakes” testing.
In reality, we want more accountability, more data, and national standards. Quoting Education Next’s announcement:
- Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents support having a single national proficiency standard in public education rather than letting every state set its own proficiency standards.
- 81 percent support requiring students in certain grades to pass an exam before they proceed to the next grade; 85 percent support requiring students to pass an exam before graduating from high school.
- 60 percent support the practice of publishing the average test performance of each school’s students.
Kudos to Education Next and the Hoover Institution for injecting this needed public opinion data into the debate. It only further supports what Eduflack has been writing until he is blue in the knuckles. We all share the goals and mission of NCLB. We want to see our students succeed, we want to measure that success, and we want to replicate those successes where schools and students are struggling. And we want to ensure that our child can compete again one from a neighboring city or from one across the country.
Hopefully, the U.S. Department of Education is listening to what the public wants. We all can hear the footsteps of NCLB reauthorization approaching. That plodding horse has to choose between two paths — weakening the law or strengthening it. Looking at EdNext’s research, along with ETS, we should choose the latter without hesitation. It’s what works. It’s what is best for the future of our nation. And it’s what the public (those footing the bill) want.
So let me pose a question from the NCLB 1.0 exit exam:
NCLB is up for reauthorization. ED wants it reauthorized. The American public supports reauthorization. Data demonstrates that NCLB is working, and the more information about NCLB that is distributed, the more support the law gains (outside of Congress). Should Secretary Spellings and ED:
A. Launch an aggressive marketing/PR campaign highlighting the goals of NCLB, its successes to date, and specific improvements focused on greater accountability and student success
B. Get defensive about NCLB attacks, trying to answer criticisms one by one, being sure to repeat the attack before they say it isn’t true
C. Do nothing, hoping all the controversies disappear and are replaced by lollipops and rainbows
Anyone who has been in the political trenches knows there is only one right answer to this question. If you want an “A” for reauthorization efforts, you need to strongly answer A on the ole bubble sheet. If we truly want to strengthen the law and provide all students an opportunity for success, the time has come, oh ED of mine, to start selling NCLB.
We’ve got a great product with strong customer support and strong proof it lives up to its claims. Lay those puzzle pieces together, and the PR strategy almost writes itself.