kitchen table math, the sequel: Diane Ravitch on NCLB

Friday, March 30, 2007

Diane Ravitch on NCLB

Here is my proposal to Congress.

In the future, the federal government should do only what the federal government can competently do. Its historic role has been three-fold: one, to collect and disseminate information about the condition and progress of education in these United States; two, to write checks help schools educate specific groups of students, especially those who are poor and have disabilities; and three, to enforce civil rights laws.

Those are the principles that should be the underpinnings of the reauthorized NCLB.

First, the federal government should establish national standards in basic academic subjects (reading, mathematics, science, and history). Second, it should annually administer national examinations in those subjects. Third, it should make the results available to states and school districts.

It should be left to the states to decide which actions to take in response to this information. The states, working with the school districts, should decide which combination of rewards and sanctions will improve student achievement.

We should, in this instance, use the states as laboratories of democracy. Since we do not know which rewards and sanctions will have the most salutary effects, we need to let the states work with educators to try different approaches. When there is a clear pattern, other states and districts will learn from the experiences of others who are successful as well as those that are not.

One of the benefits of this approach is that the states will be relieved of the cost and burden of testing, as the whole cost and burden will shift to the federal government. Another benefit will be that all of the red tape and mandates associated with NCLB will disappear overnight.

Knowing the ways of Washington, I am doubtful that my solution will find a warm reception. Just last month, a bipartisan commission funded by the Gates Foundation and co-chaired by former Governor Roy E. Barnes of Georgia (Dem.) and former Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin (Rep.) proposed a vast expansion in the number and reach of mandates associated with the education law.

But if we truly want good schools and well-educated students, we won't get them by piling on more mandates and regulations. The recipe for good education involves a solid curriculum, effective instruction, adequate resources, willing students, and cultural support and encouragement for education. Washington can pick up some, but not all, of this responsibility.

My first impulse is to agree with this.

My second impulse is to ask what effect this will have on schools like mine.

I'm drawing a blank.

I'm pretty much on board for national standards at this point, however. New York state's standards, which, in history and science, are quite good are the only thing standing between us and the abyss.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

Ted Kennedy on NCLB


TurbineGuy said...

I don't like it.

Weak test scores will be blamed on the community, students, parents, etc... instead of the schools.

Personally, I like the Reading First example... you get money if you do it our way. (based on scientific evidence).

Tex said...

First, thank you for pointing out the high marks NY gets in science and history standards. That brightened my morning and was something I had never noticed because of my focus on math.

My first reaction is to agree with this proposal as an alternative to what exists. Although, I could quibble with the first sentence. “In the future, the federal government should do only what the federal government can competently do.” Specifically, the word “competently”. Can they do anything competently these days?

Anyway, to be more optimistic, I do think that over time this proposal could work. So, ultimately, it would probably be good for all our schools.

But, to be more realistic, the issue of national standards is complicated. The politicization of developing these standards could end up with something none of would agree upon.

Another issue is time. How long do we have to wait? That’s why it keeps coming back to choice, as many of us here have been saying for a while. How long will it take for states to allow choice?