Saturday, June 21, 2008

WHAT WAS BEHIND NO CHILD LAW?

CLAUDIA WALLIS, TIME Susan Neuman, a professor of education at the University Michigan who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, was and still is a fervent believer in the goals of NCLB. And she says the President and then Secretary of Education Rod Paige were too. But there were others in the department, according to Neuman, who saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda - a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit," she says. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."

Tensions between NCLB believers and the blow-up-the-schools group were one reason the Bush Department of Education felt like "a pressure cooker," says Neuman, who left the Administration in early 2003. . .

It was only in Bush's second term that the hard line began to succumb to reality. Margaret Spellings, who replaced Paige as Secretary of Education in 2005, gradually opened the door to a more flexible and realistic approach to school accountability. . .

Neuman also regrets the Administration's use of humiliation and shame as a lever for school reform. Failure to meet NCLB's inflexible goals meant schools would be publicly labeled as failures. Neuman now sees this as a mistake: "Vilifying teachers and saying we are going to shame them was not the right approach."

The combination of inflexibility and public humiliation for those not meeting federal goals ignited so much frustration among educators that NCLB now appears to be an irreparably damaged brand. "The problems lingered long enough and there's so much anger that it may not be fixable," says Neuman. While the American Federation of Teachers was once on board with the NCLB goals, she notes, the union has turned against it. "Teachers hate NCLB because they feel like they've been picked on."

2 Comments:

At June 22, 2008 8:08 AM, Anonymous m said...

Let us not forget the opportunities for purveyors of snake oil and educational software such as the President's brother.

 
At June 23, 2008 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Education will only improve when its consumers have as much choice in schooling as they do in finding a place to eat. Sure, most people will end up being taught by the equivalent of McDonalds or Applebee's, but would that really be worse than they are getting now? If I had my time over, I might opt for Hooters High!

 

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