“All We Are Sayin’ Is Give NCLB a Chance …”

What a way to start the week.  As Eduflack was trying to re-engage into the world after less than a week of family vacation, there is the New York Times oped calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to resist the National Education Association and its attempts to weaken No Child Left Behind.  Today, we get the Washington Post editorializing that we cannot weaken NCLB, and they complement it by dedicating two-thirds of their op-ed page to essay-ettes on the virtues (or lack thereof) of the nation’s K-12 law.

That’s a lot of column inches dedicated to the protection of NCLB.  Heck, it is a lot of words dedicated to national education policy.  And it was just the sort of rhetoric that caught many by surprise, and had some downright fall out of their chairs.

Yes, we expect folks like NEA’s Reg Weaver and Fairfax County, Virginia Supe Jack Dale striking out against NCLB.  But did anyone expect the growing chorus of support for NCLB?

No, we didn’t expect it, but we’re thrilled to hear it.  Finally, the talk is about NCLB. Finally, the buzz is about the strongest possible interpretations of student achievement.  And finally, the focus is on effective measurement and evidence-based decisionmaking.

In doing so, we have taken a major step in the messaging and PR surrounding NCLB.  This is no longer a yes/no decision.  The voices of support have broken through the white noise, and we now see that NCLB (and its accompanying subsidiaries like Reading First and Highly Qualified Teachers) will remain the law of the land.  The rhetoric is not about gutting the law.  Instead, we are talking about improving it.

There is agreement on the need to assess student learning.  Now we just need decide on the merits of a single measure versus multiple measures.  There is agreement on quality teaching.  Now we just need to decide on the merits of training and pedagogy versus classroom results.  There is agreement on evidence-based instruction.  Now we just need to distinguish between the good research and the bad.  And now there is agreement that effective education is based on student achievement.  Now we just need to determine how to bring that new focus to every state, school district, and classroom throughout the nation.

One thing’s clear, it is going to be an interesting fall.  Yes, there are still many cards to be played in this game.  But if we start peeking at the hand that’s been dealt, the odds of NCLB 2.0 fulfilling the wishes of folks like WaPo, EdTrust, and others are looking stronger by the day.

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