Well, shock of all shocks, the federal government has voted to restore some of the states’ control as it concerns education. Yup, you heard that right. The federal government has chosen to give away some, ok a smidgen really, of its power over education. It’s only a tiny bit of control that they’ve yielded; but as we would say where I come from,” Mejor Que Nada”, “Better Than Nothing”.
It is no secret that I am NOT a fan of the public school system, but when No Child Left Behind was established; we basically killed an already dead system. What was intended to help keep under-achieving schools accountable for student improvement and teacher performance and to force schools to close the achievement gap among low socio-economic areas basically created a testing nightmare for schools around the country. Teachers, administrators, and school board members panicked given the increased number of standardized tests that everyone was now responsible for and that were tied to the one thing that matters most in education, the money. Teachers hyperventilated when they figured out that their jobs were now dependent upon their students’ ability to pass these crazy, all consuming standardized tests. Principals hid under their desks when they were under threat of closing down because students weren’t passing said tests. Superintendents dead or alive rolled over for fear of losing funding. No Child Left Behind had the right heart, but its “one size fits all”, “cookie cutter” methods left much to be desired by everyone involved, especially the students who were now being forced into an education where teachers, out of fear, did little more than teach to these insane tests that everyone knows were written for the lowest performing students. How else was anyone going to make any money? Thus education took a nose dive in its quality and intensity, but not in its stress.
BUT, the folks in congress have now decided to take some of the pressure off. In the Every Child Succeeds format, school districts will continue to torture students with standardized tests. HOWEVER, these tests can now be set by the state or even the school district, and the state will now determine what the new standards are and the consequences for not meeting these standards. It’s not a massive “fix it all in one big swoop” kind of law, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. States can choose Common Core or reject it with no strings, money that is, attached. Teachers are only allowed to spend a certain percentage of their time teaching to these tests. In some ways the Every Child Succeeds Act takes into account the diverse needs of each school district or state, and freedom is given to work with these variations. It is at least less of a “cookie cutter, one size fits all” system.
Granted these positive chances are not enough to cause me to run into the arms of public education with my kids, but it is a step in the right direction. My hope in all of this is that this step pushes public education towards a day when a child’s education will be individualized to some extent. A child’s achievement will be based off their unique abilities, and standards will be set by student, parent, and teacher together. Graduation plans would be created for each student with an understanding of that child’s gifts, talents, dreams and desires, thus standardized testing would be eliminated. I’m sure many would say that this can never happen, but I would like to conclude by saying that it already has. It’s called private or home education. And the more people who resort to these viable alternatives, the more the public schools will have to raise their achievement to keep up. It’s a win for everyone!