week, U.S. Education Secretary Duncan unveiled this
Administration’s version of the No Child Left Behind
Act. This launches the Washington debate over re-authorization
of NCLB, technically called the Elementary and Secondary
years of defending NCLB against charges from across
the nation that it was punitive and burdensome, the
Secretary revealed his “Blueprint for Reform” that admits
that NCLB was punitive and burdensome. While the devil
will be in details not yet spelled out, Blueprint holds
promise of being even more punitive and burdensome.
the name “No Child Left Behind” is dropped. Nearly every
teacher, administrator and parent has nothing good to
say about NCLB. Only politicians seem oblivious to the
damage NCLB has done to the American school system.
NCLB “goal” of every child being proficient by 2014
is gone to everyone’s applause. Instead, we will be
“raising standards for all students” to produce “college-
and career-ready students.” Blueprint calls on all states
to either adopt the common core language and mathematics
standards or upgrade existing standards in cooperation
with universities. But the only way states can currently
get “Race to the Top” money—and future federal grants—is
to adopt the common core. Developed by the National
Governor’s Association and chief state school officers,
common core becomes the national curriculum.
calls for “a new generation of assessments.” Not detailed
in Blueprint, the feds will be requesting proposals
to develop a national test for the national common core.
Six testing companies are lining up at the feed trough,
salivating over this massive testing windfall. The rationale
is that state standards are set too low and we need
a uniform yardstick to measure kids nationwide.
NCLB narrowed the curriculum to teaching-to-the-test
in just language arts and mathematics, Blueprint expands
testing to other major disciplines.
correctly recognizes the most important factor in student
success is having an “effective teacher.” But the document
ignores the fact that this last generation of high school
students saw the extent that NCLB de-professionalized
teaching. NCLB is the main reason many of our best college
students decide not to enter secondary teaching. Blueprint
continues this blame game.
place of the impossible climb toward 100 percent proficient
by 2014, Blueprint implements a “growth model” rejected
by previous administrations. Although it lacks details,
“growth model” will in effect require individualized
education plans (IEPs) to track every student’s progress.
There is still a deadline—the year 2020—for all students
being college- or career-ready—a measure yet to be defined.
So the annual testing will go on, expanded into every
major discipline, and with a documentation burden that
will make NCLB look mild.
measures are more draconian than under NCLB. Federal
money for low-performing schools will be based on models
of: “transformation” (fire the principal), “turnaround”
(fire the principal and half the teachers), “restart”
(close the school and start again with new personnel),
and “school closure” (close the school and disperse
students to other districts). Like NCLB, Blueprint has
an attitude problem. It uses strategies that, if applied
to medicine, would destroy morale and drive college
students to other careers.
“competitive grants” continue the enforcement of federal
education policy. While the U.S.D.E. has no jurisdiction
and cannot promulgate any regulations compelling state
and local school policy, it will extort compliance by
making federal policy a required “string” to receive
federal money. Providing about 15 percent of each state’s
education budget, Blueprint will continue in NCLB’s
footsteps toward controlling 100 percent of every state’s
educational policy. This federal money is nowhere adequate
to implement the Blueprint “visions—it is an “underfunded
mandate.” But the Feds have found they can nationalize
education for 15 cents on the dollar.
Kansas facing another round of teacher and staff dismissals,
much larger classes, painful consolidations, and shortages
of teaching materials, no state can afford to reject
the federal dollars. And no state can afford to fully
implement the Blueprint for Reform.