Jan 11

Tenth Anniversary of NCLB: Reason to Celebrate or Commiserate?

GUEST POST: As NCLB turns 10, Superintendent Charles Maranzano (Hopatcong, NJ), provides insights from the front lines about the impact this law has had on schools, students and learning. He concludes that educational issues are “determined locally and solved locally by dedicated professionals who are in the best position to know what it takes to nurture and teach children.” He implores those holding the purse strings to “give communities the resources to accomplish this important task” and encourages Washington politicians “to stay out of the equation.” Dr. Maranzano (Chuck) is a former Virginia school administrator, superintedent and member of VASSP. You can review the enitre blog by Dan Domenech at the American Association of School Administrators site at http://www.aasa.org/AASAblog-95-5-dilemma.aspx

At the tenth anniversary of No Child Left Behind it is clear from my perspective that the federal government’s ambitious effort to set a national education agenda for America’s Public Schools has met with limited success. The Washington “one size fits all” perspective on meeting the needs of millions of children in our nation’s schools was ill conceived at best by the former George W. Bush administration. The punitive labels that were assigned to school districts nationwide as a result of the lack of compliance for making “Adequate Yearly Progress” under N.C.L.B. did much to discredit the positive strides American educators made in the past decade if not the past century.

Let’s be clear about what we have accomplished as a society that creates educational opportunities for all of its children in a systematized and formal manner. The facts are clear on the complexities that confront public education in America and the challenges we face in our attempts to teach the most diverse population of students in the world. In the past century the United States of America has distinguished herself as a world economic power and social force for justice and human rights. This did not occur by accident! We are the world leader in higher education, human rights activism, and creative thinking as a result of a system of free and appropriate public education in all fifty states.

Dan Domenech, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators published a report called the 95/5 Dilemma that articulates the overwhelming positive accomplishments of America’s public schools. He contends that the lowest five percent of public schools have sadly come to define the other ninety-five percent even though we can boast of having the best public schools in the world. The dichotomy of this has fueled the national discussion about the worth and value of public education in America for decades now. It’s time to recognize these accomplishments and acknowledge that we have established one of the most profound systems for public education in the world.

In the years since the Reagan administration decried the inadequacy of public education in America when A Nation at Risk was published America has transformed the world socially, economically, technologically, in the broadest possible global context. American public education is largely responsible for our success as a nation. It is time to recognize and celebrate that fact. Are there matters that we have to address in order to take our system of free and public education to a higher level? Undeniably yes. But the federal government should not be administering to 100,000 public schools nor should it be determining whether each of those schools and its teachers are successful or failing.

In the words of former U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, “This decade’s experience has reminded us that Washington may be able to create a better environment for school improvement, but Washington cannot make schools better; only teachers, principals, parents, and communities can…it is time to move most decisions about whether teachers and schools are succeeding or failing out of Washington and back to states and communities.” I could not agree with Mr. Alexander more on this important point. Educational issues are determined locally and solved locally by dedicated professionals who are in the best position to know what it takes to nurture and teach children. Just give communities the resources to accomplish this important task and please let’s get Washington politicians out of this equation once and for all