There is a significant argument in the halls of Congress whether the choice facing No Child Left Behind is either to "take immediate bold steps to accelerate progress in education" or "jeopardize the future of our nation's children and our competitiveness in the global economy by maintaining the status quo."
However, I believe these are not the only two choices. Each choice ignores what public schools are actually good at: local control, creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurship, innovation and creating global citizens.
NCLB encourages teaching to the test, teaching test-taking skills and limiting curricula to the teaching of reading, math and science at the expense of civics, history, career and technical education, music, art, physical education and health, which are essential to the success of our graduates.
As Sandra Day O'Connor recently stated, "to survive as a nation, it is vital that our schools teach, and our children understand, our system of government."
In order for this to happen, our students must be engaged in the governance of our schools and in their lives before graduation.
The national curriculum standards are limited by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Local districts should decide on curricula to prepare American students to be productive citizens in a global economy.
One thing is clear, and that is, the federal government is an inefficient national credentialing body for the nation's teaching force. The proposed federal standards should be opposed as inappropriate, mathematically flawed and ill-advised additional unfunded mandates for the states.
We must move away from coercion, sanction and punishment and move toward collaboration, authenticity and trust...
We do need better quality assessments that can inform instruction as well as more comprehensive data systems. The growth model would replace arbitrary caps that ignore the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, process, individual student needs and school and district characteristics. This will allow local school boards, teachers and principals to focus seriously on the individual needs of special education students and English language learners.
It is clear that the Title I sanctions of choice and supplemental services are failed federal schemes. We should be focused single-mindedly on improving learning for all children but especially for those with the greatest needs.
This requires more support, not sanctions. A mere 1 percent of eligible students have ever used the choice options. The supplemental Education Services program, while slightly more popular, has been plagued with lack of capacity, inappropriate recruiting, inadequate information, no clear method to track impact and lots of finger-pointing by everyone involved.
Failed experiments should be discontinued, not rewarded with additional funding and support. Title I sanctions should be dropped entirely.
I oppose increased federal involvement in high school assessments. It is inappropriate to take money from Career and Technical Education programs (Carl Perkins grants) to pay for additional high school assessments, and thus require high schools to do more bureaucratic paperwork without any indication it will actually help student learning.
Current funding for CTE is inadequate even though these programs are effective, popular and have far more ability to prepare students for a global economy than increased testing ever could.
In conclusion, Congress should amend NCLB to allow a more appropriate federal role in education with accurate and instructionally sensitive accountability focused on individual student learning.