How do you raise awareness about educational improvement in the United States? That is the big question this week over on the National Journal’s Education Experts blog. Riffing off of some of the education reform activities at the recent political conventions, the folks over at NJ are actually hypothesizing that there is no disagreement on our need to improve.
Despite the national pastime of griping about No Child Left Behind and its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures, there hasn’t been nearly the attention placed on the NCLB waivers being granted by the U.S. Department of Education.
When nearly 40 percent of students can’t read at grade level by fourth grade, it isn’t a 15 percent issue. When a third of students drop out of high school, it isn’t a 15 percent issue. When 70 percent of Connecticut’s public high school graduates require remedial education in college, it isn’t a 15 percent issue.
We all agree that early childhood education is an incredibly important, if not the most important, part of a successful P-12 experience. Yet despite such universal agreement, we are still failing to provide high-quality preK, particularly to those that would benefit from it the most.
The question is not simply whether or not to provide early childhood education. In a time when we are ever-focused on return on investment of scarce public dollars, the real questions should be about the rigor of the ECE program. What is the evidence base on which the program is constructed? How do we correctly target the students most in need? What is the quality and effectiveness of the educators leading an ECE classroom? What is their track record of effectiveness? This may be an unpopular thing to say in our current anti-testing environment, but we need to demand proof that the program (or approach) works and that the children it touches are gaining the skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
There is no question it is an important debate. Hopefully, we continue to take a closer look and continue to take meaningful actions that are proven effective.
One has to be living under a rock not to recognize that that education and jobs share a strong bond. As we look for ways to rebuild our economy and create new jobs, it is clear that reforming our K-12 education systems, ensuring all students have access to the knowledge and skills necessary to perform in our future economy, is a non-negotiable.
It’s shameful that we can’t fill open jobs in an economy like this. And it is deplorable that one’s ability to get a strong public education depends, in large part, on race, family income, or zip code. We have no excuse for not preparing our kids, all of our kids, to meet the demands of a 21st century economy. Education is an economic development strategy – the best one that’s out there. We should be redoubling our efforts to ensure that policy makers see economic development and education as two sides of the same coin, and look to them to guide states, localities, and the nation toward meaningful reforms that will prepare all of our kids for college, career, and a productive life.
It is School Choice Week! Of course, that means yet another debate focused on whether schools of choice should play a role in our K-12 public education infrastructure. By now, you would think such a debate would be unnecessary, yet the beat goes on.
It is unfortunate that, in 2012, we must continue a debate about whether all students should have access to high-quality school options. It is unfortunate that too many children don’t have the opportunity to attend public schools that can change their destinies. And it is truly unfortunate that we continue to look for excuses and justifications for denying students access schools that are proven to be effective when it comes to addressing all students’ learning needs and preparing all kids – regardless of race, family income, or zip code – for college and career.
Choice can, should, and must help inform the entire education policy agenda. Ultimately, our goal must be to provide great public schools to all students, no excuses. Public school success, regardless of the wrapper it might wear, serves as the exemplar for driving change. We should be agnostic about where solutions come from, as long as they are real, effective solutions that work for our kids. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything less.
Yes, we are now smack in the middle of celebrating the 10th anniversary of our beloved No Child Left Behind. As we should expect from something that has been on the “out” list the past three or five seasons, many of the birthday wishes are focusing on the failures or shortfalls of the law. Yes, shocker!
At the end of the day, NCLB will best be remembered as an unfinished legacy, one with great promise, but real challenges in delivering on those promises. But we cannot deny that NCLB succeeded in moving K-12 education away from a discussion of process and inputs (as it had been for so many iterations of ESEA before it) and towards a focus on outcomes. We have started to see students and families as the customers in the process, with providers (the public school system) improving the quality of their product. And now, parents can look at test scores and other achievement measures to determine the return on investment for their local education dollar.