Friday, June 23, 2006

AEI weighs in on the politics of NCLB

Frederick Hess and Michael Petrilli lay out the history of NCLB. They explicitly focus on the frustration felt by members of Congress about the lack of results from decades of reforms intended to address the achievement gap. There was a consensus that high expectations were important, but the censuses did not extend to root causes. Some thought that low expectations themselves were key. Others identified lack of resources for low achievers as the most important problem to address. A third explanation was school culture and a lack of effective organizational structures that led to institutional paralysis. However, the censuses that all students should be able to learn and all schools should be able to produce significant achievement gains bridged these different understandings.

Politically, the attraction of the NCLB consensus was that it allowed public officials to embrace high standards and champion equal opportunity without having to prescribe uncomfortable solutions or explain exactly what strategies would enable schools to succeed....Ultimately, NCLB was intended to provide political cover to superintendents and school board members to encourage them to take controversial and difficult steps to root out mediocre teachers and administrators, shift resources to poorer schools, challenge collective bargaining provisions regulating teacher transfer and preventing efforts to link pay to teacher quality, and overhaul central office processes.
Hess and Petrilli do a good job laying out the history and the trends that are likely to find their way into the reauthorization. The consensus around high expectations seems to be holding. The major change is the inclusion of growth in student learning as an additional feature (not a replacement of attainment requirements).


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