On the Road Again

For the past few weeks, Eduflack has spent the majority of his time well beyond the DC beltway.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana to name just a few.  And the coming weeks add Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, Indiana, and Colorado.  One thing’s clear, discussions of education reform are occurring well beyond Capitol Hill and One DuPont.

The discussions in these communities have been remarkable, both for what is discussed and what is not discussed.  In virtually all states, educators are focused on improving opportunities for their students.  The core message is not that of a high-quality high school diploma.  Instead, the focus is a good-paying, secure job.  Students are eager to take more and more math and science courses, even if they hate the content.  For these students (and I spoke primarily with low-income students) they see STEM as the golden ticket to a good job and a good future.

What didn’t I hear?  In visits to state departments of education, to school districts, and to classrooms, I can’t recall a single instance where I heard the acronym NCLB.  Maybe it is just a part of life we’ve come to accept.  Maybe it is irrelevant.  Maybe it is too scary to say by name.  Regardless, the decisions of state ed officials, superintendents, and educators seem to be driven my more practical, more day-to-day factors than the federal NCLB banner.

What does this all mean?  To Eduflack, it means the intentions of NCLB may actually be working.  For some of us, the law was never about high-stakes testing, teacher punishments, and accountability without effective interventions.  No, for folks like Eduflack, NCLB was a vision for the future.  It was a vision where every student has the opportunity to succeed.  Where every classroom has research-based instruction and measurable student achievement.  NCLB equates a nation of hope, of opportunity, and of success for all students who worked for it.

And that’s exactly what I’m seeing on my travels.  Here in DC, we get lost in trial balloon legislative drafts, amendments to bills that will never see the light of day, and the most inside-iest of inside baseball.  Outside of DC, we’re seeing educators doing whatever is necessary to give their kids a chance.  The counter plant closings, lost jobs, and economic downturns with dual-enrollment courses, academic partnerships, and strong student-teacher relationships.

Makes us wonder who should be teaching whom, huh?  I’ve long advocated we need to move the education reform debate from the ivory towers to Main Street USA.  It was always a cute turn of the phrase.  But it is also 100 percent true.  The true impact of school reform is not felt on Maryland Ave., SW.  Long-term impact can only be felt in those cities and towns across the country, where tomorrow’s leaders are busily taking the algebra, physics, and ELA classes they dread … but know they need to succeed.

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