Guest Author - D. Lynn Byrne, Ph.D.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has raised its ugly head again. Unfortunately, the legislation enabling NCLB, otherwise known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA, is up for renewal. The US Department of Education is poised to argue for more control, more standards, and more punitive measures for schools which do not make the grade. What sort of reforms will this bring, if any?
The current ESEA has a great deal of language regarding control, standards and punitive measures. Unfortunately, the result of the NCLB provisions of the current ESEA have left a great deal to the states, which means that some schools which were failing--legitimately--were allowed to use optional measures to gain "acceptable" ratings; and others which had improved, were marked as "failures."
Supposedly, the intent of the proposed revisions is to remove some of the control from the states and shift it to the U.S. Department of Education. Whether that's a good thing or not is a bit unpredictable. The shift, at best, may lead to a more standardized system of school accountability; at worst, it may lead to a system of mediocrity.
The one suggestion I think may have a tremendous impact is related to stronger punitive measures for failing schools. Under the proposed ESEA, schools that are failing (hopefully legitimately) will have to be restructured (meaning the top administration, the principal, will be terminated and replaced); and schools may lose significant funding.
I find this prooposal both laudable and worrisome at the same time. If a school is failing, removal of administration may have some impact; but usually failures are not only structural, they're also systemic. So this action isn't likely to result in a significant change. However, as schools--especially public schools--are usually very reponsive to cash flow, the threat of a reduction in funding if a school is failing may prove to be an incentive. Unfortunately, the schools that usually make the failure list are typically some of the poorest to begin with; so the flip side of the equation, i.e. offering additional funding for improvement, would likely be a better inducement.
At any rate, we're likely to see a great deal of discussion over the next few months from legislators and administrators alike. Just don't be surprised if your school asks you to write your elected representatives regarding some of the proposals.
Until next time, happy reading!