Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reauthorizing NCLB: Time for educators to speak up for an effective Elementary and Secondary Education Act

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the previous administration's nickname for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, deserves credit for exposing achievement gaps and focusing on education outcomes. Surely these remain admirable goals. However the implementation of NCLB was always problematic. NCLB remains underfunded and doesn't hold schools to high standards. In the process the United States' dropout rate has increased.
Approved by Congress in 2001 and signed by President Bush in 2002, NCLB pushed public schools to improve basic instruction for low-income, minority and disabled students, among others. Congress overwhelmingly approved the law but it has since lost most of its supporters. United States Secretary of Education Duncan notes that many teachers "complain bitterly about NCLB's emphasis on testing" while many parents "just view it as a toxic brand that isn't helping children learn." (October, 2009)
This is the time for educators to respond to the Secretary's call for action. Minimally, educators should be contacting their elected officials--asking them to refocus Congress on the need to reauthorize the ESEA with a mission to "end the culture of blame, self-interest, and disrespect that has demeaned the field of education" and "build a transformative education law" that promotes a well-rounded education "worthy of a great nation." Educators should be proactive in building "...a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators — who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners and compensated accordingly," (Duncan, 2009)

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