It's very hard to be reasonable about No Child Left Behind. But that doesn't mean I won't try.
First of all, I love the back and forth happening on Jenny D's blog
, and I appreciate Eduwonk's mention of our exchange
-- even if one of his readers didn't appreciate it
. This is an important debate and this is a perfect place to have it.
OK, now my attempt to be reasonable. Everyone who is opposed to NCLB (and generally I'm with you): don't we have to admit that every child should be able to pass a basic reading and math competency test at some point in their academic career? I honestly don't think that's unreasonable in the slightest.
And don't we have to come to grips with the fact that some schools and some teachers -- by no means all or even a majority -- have consistently failed to teach even basic literacy and numeracy? And further, is it not undeniably true that a great majority of these failed students are minorities?
To answer no to any of those questions is tantamount to absurdity. Period.
Allright, now it's your turn supporters of NCLB. Is it possible to deny that when schools and teachers are judged on the basis of a few tests they will put undue emphasis on them to the exclusion of educational goals not included? Isn't it true that if our sole focus in on outcomes, the process will usually be ignored? And is there any proof -- and please point it out if there is -- that shows that high test scores lead to increased success in college, in the workplace, or any place
other than the testing room?
I hate to sound like a centrist -- really I do hate it, I love a good ideological fight -- but isn't there a middle way here? No one seems to have found it yet.
Except for (drum roll please) ... John Dewey. I know it sounds silly but here's a guy who emphasized academic rigor and
intellectual curiosity, strong foundations and
individual exploration, fluency in basic skills and
higher order thinking. These things do not have to be mutually exclusive.
The rightful desire for 100% literacy and numeracy can share space with the equally sensible wish for students to be able to explore and follow their interests without limits.