Earlier today, I posted a link to Teacher Ken's post on Daily Kos, where he called it the most important speech on education in years. Here's a direct link to the entire speech. It's outstanding!. Ken is not exaggerating.
Letís be clear about what NCLB has really accomplished: It has convinced the media and major philanthropies and Wall Street hedge fund managers that American public education is a failure and that radical solutions are required. The philanthropists and Wall Street hedge fund managers and Republicans and the Obama administration and assorted rightwing billionaires have some ideas about how to change American education. They arenít teachers but they think they know how to fix the schools.
We have now had ten years of No Child Left Behind, and we now know that there has been very little change in the gaps between the children of the rich and the children of the poor, between black children and white children, between Hispanic children and white children. Meanwhile our policymakers say we need higher standards, more rigorous standards, and more testing. How exactly will that help children who are struggling to read and do math? Or, in some cases, struggling to read and speak English? Or in the case of children with disabilities, how are they helped by harder tests? This is like saying, ďif these children canít jump over a four-foot bar, letís lift the bar to six feet and see how they do.Ē Do you know how they will do? It seems obvious to me.
We now know that none of the current carrot-and-stick policies will shrink the gap. We know it because they have been tried for 10 years and they havenít worked. Structural changes like charters and vouchers overall will not make a difference. Merit pay makes no difference. Judging teachers by test scores demoralizes teachers and will lead to narrowing of the curriculumóso that the districts where children have the lowest scores will have more time for test preparation and less time for the arts, less time for history or civics, less time for science, less time for physical education. The children who need a great education the most will get the least.