Pulling the Curtain Back on NCLB’s First Round Mistakes

For well over a year now, the education community has discussed what was wrong with NCLB, from unfunded mandates to poor implementation to conflicts of interest within the U.S. Department of Education.  But how much of that is smoke, and how much of that is real fire?

Eduflack is at a loss for words this morning, thanks to www.ednews.org and an exclusive piece they have from respected reporter Andrew Brownstein.  Andy offers a look at ED, and more specifically, a look at former OESE chief Susan Neuman, that few have seen before.  
I can’t do justice by summarizing the piece.  Let’s just say ethics issues, lack of authority, and absence of core commitment do not an assistant secretary make.  The full story can be found here: <a href="http://ednews.org/articles/30800/1/Exclusive-NLCB-Insider-Susan-Neuman-Re-Emerges-As-Potential-Obama-Voice/Page1.html
We all love a redemption story.  And maybe UC-Berkeley’s David Pearson is correct, and Neuman is now doing penance for the actions she took, the words she spoke, and the stances she made as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.  Let’s not forget, though, that this was the Bush Administration official who defined her mission, in part, as teacher-proofing the curriculum.
What’s the takeaway here?  There is a lot that an Obama Education Department can learn from the Neuman experience.  First and foremost, your team needs to buy into the mission and vision, with no equivocation.  This is your agenda, and you need staff who believe it and who will carry it out with fidelity.  More importantly, you need staff that are there to serve the public good, with a prime goal of improving public instruction for all students.  Now is not the time for ego-building, resume enhancing, or rewarding those who are “friends of the program.”
School improvement is a tough game, a really tough game.  We need leaders who take true positions, positions they believe in, and positions designed to enhance all students, particularly those most at risk.  Hopefully, those moving into power will review Brownstein’s piece, and file it in the “Do Not Replicate” pile.  There is too much at stake for such amateurish mistakes. 

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