Happy Birthday

There’s no getting around the subject.  This week is NCLB’s sixth birthday.  What exactly do we get a law that seems to have both everything and nothing?  How do we celebrate a law that has a strong and loyal opposition that is desperately hoping a seventh birthday is not in the future? 

For the father of NCLB, President George W. Bush, it was all about deep dish pizza and a visit to the Windy City.  For the law’s author, Senator Ted Kennedy, it was about promises of NCLB offspring, a new law with better funding that can be offered as part of reauthorization.  And for its godmother, Ed Secretary Margaret Spellings, it was the promise of action without reauthorization (a “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges moment, if you will).

What has been most interesting about this year’s “celebration” has been the unified critical view of NCLB.  The message from the loyal opposition has clear.  NCLB is bad because of tough assessments of students and of schools.

Even if we are to eulogize NCLB tomorrow, do we really believe that measurement and evaluation is what is wrong with our K-12 system?  Shouldn’t we have the strongest possible understanding of how our students are achieving?  Shouldn’t we know what they know, building on their strengths and attending to their weaknesses? 

Likewise, shouldn’t we know how our schools are doing?  As taxpayers, we want to know that our property tax dollars are being well-spent.  As parents, we want to know that our school is as good (if not better) than others in the area.  And as a community, we want assurances that our school system is education our students and preparing them for a high-paying, high-skills job once they leave the schoolhouse doors for the last time.

Regardless of political party, educational philosophy, or general approach to life, we all have to agree that information is power.  Data on student, teacher, and school performance provide us key information.  Sure, we don’t have to use that information in a punitive manner.  School data can be used to redirect funding or teacher resources, rather than just to identify failing schools.  It can be used to identify what works, and not just as fodder to attack what doesn’t.  It can be used as a learning tool and as an instructional foundation.

If we’ve learned anything over these past six years, it’s that we need more information and more data about our schools, not less.  We need to know what works and what doesn’t.  We need to know who’s achieving and who’s not.  And most importantly, we need to know how to measure both.  If data is king, we need to make sure our schools are true royalty, and not merely court jesters feeling around in a darkened corner.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s