Sunday, December 13, 2015

No More NCLB

       The news is out that No Child Left Behind has been axed by Congress and replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). On one front this is welcome news. I'm not sure anyone involved in teaching kids ever thought we could achieve 100% proficiency in math and reading. Talk about pipe dreams...
       However, I'm leery of the new legislation. Why? Because we've had "new" legislation for the last two decades and it always results in the same thing: changes to the curriculum/standards and benchmarks. What I'm reading is no exception. In my world the State Superintendent of Public Instruction remarked that we would "take a look at" the Common Core standards and probably make changes. These are the standards I've been laboring over for the last six-seven years. And not just me--my colleagues as well. We've worked during the summer to write common assessments based on these standards, written essential questions for our curriculum and spent tedious hours debating the nuances of the Common Core. And now there's twitterings of change?
       With all this change after so much work, no wonder people avoid the education field like the plague. What other industry changes the standards or its work as often as education? What other field "doesn't require" its workers to put in extra hours after work to implement new standards but requires the new standards implemented. The only way that can happen is for teachers to put in the extra non-paid hours.
       This may sound as though I'm anti-education, but I'm not. I am anti-bandwagon. Let's do what's best for kids. That may read strange to many, but seriously, let's put kids first. Is changing the standards, once again, best for kids? Is all the work we've done in the past several decades worthless? Frameworks? Standards? Benchmarks? Learning goals? I'm not against change, I'm against change for the sake of change. In my classes when I'm reworking what I teach I ask myself, "What's best for my students?" and try to go with that. Sometimes I wonder if that's a question ever considered by our public officials.
      I don't know enough about ESSA to comment on it. What I am an expert on is kids. I've taught them for 25 years. Maybe the governing bodies should get input from veteran teachers on the  "new policies" being considered. Novel idea, I know. I guess I'm like Robert Frost in his poem, "Mending Wall:"
                                               Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
                                               What I was walling in or walling out,
                                                And to whom I was like to give offense.
                                               Something there is that doesn't love a wall
                                               That wants it down. (36-40)

       Before I built a wall I want to know what it is I'm guarding and what it is I'm repelling. Before I make sweeping educational changes, I want to know who's benefiting. Is this new legislation student-friendly? If so, sign me up.
       But if the legislation is mired in legislation-ese, difficult to deconstruct and understand, and not student centered...well, it's the same merry-go-round just a different horse we're riding.
       However, it's early and I really don't know much about ESSA. I'm willing to play wait and see. I just hope others put their masonry tools away until we give ESSA a chance. One thing I can say with certainty is that I'm glad to see No Child is left behind...for good.

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