“One of These Stories Doesn’t Belong … “

Any devoted student of Sesame Street knows the segment — “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things doesn’t belong.”  We used it to differentiate shapes or to separate the dogs from the cats.  Who knew it would come in handy with regard to recent NCLB commentary in two of the top papers in the nation.

So let’s look at those three articles.  First we have an editorial in the Aug. 7 Washington Post calling for reauthorization of NCLB, with a particular focus on Congressman George Miller’s recent comments of his push to improve NCLB.  Second, we have an editorial in USA Today the day before, also calling for the reauthorization of NCLB and support for increased accountability in our public schools system.  And finally, we have NEA President Reg’s Weaver’s response in USA Today, where he claims our students are worse off today than they were five years ago when NCLB was signed into law.  http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/08/opposing-view-k.html?csp=34

Obviously, Weaver’s sentiments are not like the others.  Surprisingly, both USA Today and WaPo have written articles recently about some of the shortcomings of NCLB.  Both entered into their commentaries with their eyes wide open, knowing the strengths and weaknesses.  And both came away calling for a continuation of the law, recognizing the long-term benefit of increased accountability and a commitment to boosting student achievement across the board.

The past few months have provided all involved in education reform the opportunity to identify ways to strengthen NCLB.  How can we make assessment more meaningful?  How do we cultivate and support effective teachers?  How do we ensure our kids are leaving school with the skills they need to succeed in life?  How do we truly improve our K-12 system?

All good questions.  All questions that deserve strong public debate and meaningful consideration by key stakeholders.  And all questions that should be front and center when communicating on the needs of NCLB 2.0.

Yet, despite these needed discussions, Weaver decided to play the same ole record of opposition.  He says school administrators are saying teaching science is a waste of time, which is laughable since science assessments will be introduced nationally next year, joining our reading and math tests.  We’re giving subjects other than math and reading short shrift, he says, at a time when states and school districts are investing major energies into STEM education efforts and relevant high school instruction.  And then the king of urban legends — our focus on student achievement doesn’t improve student learning.

Some rhetoric just gets stale before its time, and that is definitely the case here.  Weaver represents nearly 3 million teachers across the nation.  Those teachers deserve better.  They deserve more.  They deserve a singular focus on how they can help improve NCLB, improve the quality of teaching in the United States, and improve the professionalism of the profession.  That only happens when you are committed to improve, and when you are committed to have that improvement measured, analyzed, and shared across the industry.  Accountability is the key to all.

Instead of fretting and grousing about a law passed five years ago, NEA should be focused on improvements that benefit their teachers and benefit their schools.  Weaver should be talking about how NEA would want to see teachers evaluated and how best to tie student achievement to teacher effectiveness.  The rhetorical focus should be on what can and should happen, not on what did or did not happen.

One of these things clearly doesn’t belong.  Weaver is trying to rehash the educational skirmishes of 2001 that NEA and its breathren lost.  USA Today and WaPo are talking about moving forward and improving a well-intentioned law.  The latter is the only way we can get to the sunny days of NCLB 2.0 Street.  

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