Top School Administrator Recommends Fixes for NCLB

I’ve added the Washington, DC-based American Association of School Administrators to the blogroll links section on the right-hand side of the screen. And with good reason, too. Their executive director, in the June issue of the Kappan (the official publication of Phi Delta Kappa), puts No Child Left Behind (leaves many children behind) in context and proposes many distinct fixes as reauthorization of the troubled bill is on the horizon. Look at what Paul Houston says about testing:

Sin Number 2: Conflating testing with education. Testing is an important part of the educational process. Teachers need to know what kids know and how they are progressing, and the public has a right to have a snapshot of how well benchmarks are being met. But testing must be kept in perspective. A number of states were making significant progress on their statewide plans before NCLB was implemented, and they had to step back from more sophisticated uses of assessments to meet the lower standards set by NCLB.

When student achievement is discussed, it has now come to mean test results. Yet the least sophisticated citizen among us understands that there is much more to education than what can be tested. When our sole emphasis is squarely on a single aspect of education, the entire process gets distorted. One of the greatest dangers posed by NCLB is that we will reach a point where most kids meet an acceptable standard set by the tests but do so at the expense of a broader and deeper learning experience. Setting standards can be useful, but only if the standards do not lead to standardization. A wise man once pointed out to me that training makes people alike and education makes them different. If we put too much emphasis on a lower, common denominator, we will be sacrificing higher possibilities for our children.


Now, look at the recommendation he proposes:

Put testing in context and emphasize depth in education. Put the emphasis on testing into a broader context. Use models to measure growth, but continue to find ways of disaggregating data to allow schools to see clearly where they are succeeding and where improvements are needed. Challenge schools to continue to emphasize the depth and breadth of education. Help schools shift from a “coverage” mentality to one that focuses on depth and “metacognition.” Emphasize that the work of schools is educating children, not training them. Put the focus on educating the whole child, not just the parts that decode and cipher.


He “gets” it. How about you?

E.C. 🙂


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