NCLB: A Local Perspective
In case you missed it, we had a fascinating online chat on edweek.org last week with local leaders from Rockland County, N.Y., which recently published a 72-page report on how the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be changed to better serve the needs of local school districts. A transcript of the chat is available on edweek.org.
Throughout the discussion, concerns were raised about the federal education law's impact on students' motivation to learn and teachers' motivation to teach. Chat guests and participants also expressed serious concerns that the law looks at education too narrowly, discouraging students from becoming well-rounded learners.
Harriet Cornell, a Rockland County political leader who was one of the featured guests for the chat, responded to a question about NCLB requirements for English-language learners by talking about a letter local leaders had written to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings:
"Your question calls to mind a letter recently written by school administrators in Rockland County, addressed to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings," Ms. Cornell said. "They wrote: 'Dr. Spellings, we ask you to imagine yourself a 12-year-old girl whose family moves to China. You are placed in a 7th grade class and begin to learn Chinese. In the middle of the second year (8th grade), you are given the same standardized test that Chinese-born 8th graders take to assess their Chinese reading, writing and listening skills. How appropriate will that test be for you? Will you meet standards?'
"We are deeply concerned about the emotional toll placed on children who are now being forced to take these high-stakes exams so soon after arriving in this country," Ms. Cornell continued. "In regard to children with disabilities, we have concluded that the goals of the legislation are diametrically opposed to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in that it fails to recognize the individual strengths and challenges of these special needs children."
To be sure, it would have been better if the chat had also featured a pro-NCLB voice, because the two guests from Rockland County were very critical of the law.
Still, I found their local perspective refreshing. Their answers felt real and urgent, unlike the predictable blather you often hear about the law from Republicans and Democrats in Washington.