Leave This to the Professionals

A little information and familiarity with buzz words can be a dangerous thing.  Case in point — the comments found in Steven Dennis’ July 18 Roll Call article about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.  Sure, we can all think of some areas of the law that should be strengthened or improved (Eduflack has his own wish list for enhancements).  I just never thought I’d see a new name for the law leading the concerns of distinguished members of Congress.

In his piece, Dennis quotes House Majority Whip James Clyburn, who states, “No Child Left Behind has lost so much credibility that it needs to be rebranded.”  Others joined the chorus that a new name helps solve many of the perceived problems.

Unfortunately, it seems its been quite a while since Clyburn was in a marketing class or a brand management workshop.  NCLB’s problem is not its brand.  For the most part, the NCLB brand is widely recognized by most key stakeholder audiences.  And ask most folks on the street.  They may not know ESEA, but they likely will recognize NCLB.  Good or bad, NCLB is a known entity, a recognized brand.

Congressman Dale Kildee, in the same piece, says we need to change the name to demonstrate that Congress is listening to critics and making substantive changes.  If we get to the core of this issue, though, it isn’t about making substantive changes … it should be about making substantive improvements.  But I digress.

As we’ve seen in recent public opinion surveys, the more people learn about NCLB and its focus on student achievement, effective teaching, and proven instruction, the more they embrace it.  Remind us of the law’s finer points, and we grow more hopeful and more accepting of it.  We all want high-quality education.  We all want assurances that we are using what we know works when it comes to teaching our kids.  And we all want to know how to measure that effectiveness and hold all involved accountable.  We want to give every student, in every school district the tools to succeed.

We’ve already seen ED change the NCLB logo in an attempt to recapture the hearts and minds of the education community.  And the jagged red stripes have failed to do the job.  Does anyone honestly think that a new neon road sign, as Kildee and Clyburn suggest, is the missing piece to getting effective, proven education reform into our classrooms?

Of course not.  The issue here boils down to marketing communications 101.  Secretary Spellings, Congress, and just about everyone else needs to educate stakeholders on 1) what NCLB is; 2) why it is important; and 3) the successes of NCLB to date.  The more people know, the stronger their embrace of the law.  Build on that.  Educate them.  Build on their positive feelings.  Turn lukewarm feelings positive.  And dispel the negatives.  Do that, and you have stakeholders prepared and eager to implement the law, enforce the law, and improve the law.

Sure, you can rebrand NCLB.  But doing so means giving in and admitting that we are incapable of leaving no child behind.  If anything NCLB 2.0 should embrace its birth name, and remind teachers, parents, administrators, the business community, and, yes, policymakers, that we can, and should, help all children succeed.  But to do it, we need to be stronger, we need to be more resolute, and we need to be more committed to research-based instruction, effective teaching, and meaningful assessments.  That doesn’t come from a new name on the top of a piece of legislation.  That comes from demonstrating long-term gains in student achievement.  We know NCLB works.  Now’s the time to teach that lesson to the whole class.

2 thoughts on “Leave This to the Professionals

  1. It’s that simple.It’s not enough to define the problem.If some people think that the NCLB brand stinks,wait till he smells what’s going to happen.but i always give NCLB credit for exposing achievement gaps.

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