The Obama administration released on its web site its blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This was just after President Obama addressed education in his weekly Internet address. (Here’s the transcript of that address.) I have completed one complete read-through of that blueprint and think there are four areas of concern for me as a 21st century administrator. These areas are: 1) continued emphasis on testing, 2) emphasis on tying test scores to teacher and principal evaluations, 3) emphasis on getting every child ready for college and career and no provisions to address how every child is going to pay for college, and 4) the many areas that are bound to cause additional red tape and paperwork. The bottom line, NCLB 2.0 seems to continue many of the same provisions in NCLB 1.0, only the names have been changed.
The blueprint re-emphasizes the four areas of the Obama administrations focus in educational reform. Those four areas by themselves are hard to argue with or about. The first area identified by the Obama administration has been improving teacher and principal effectiveness to ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school has a great leader. That seems fairly innocuous. Who would argue that we want ineffective teachers and ineffective leaders? The second area identified is providing information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children's schools, and to educators to help them improve their students' learning. Again nothing earth-shattering with this idea. The third area is implementing college and career ready standards and developing improved assessments aligned with those standards. Now this is obvious a continued emphasis on the importance of testing. This sounds no different from NCLB 1.0. The final area is improving student learning and achievement in America's lowest performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions. Again, not sure how much this is different from NCLB 1.0. It is also impossible to argue with this focus. There is absolutely nothing earth-shattering or distinctive about any of these. Where Obama administrative education policy starts being distinctive is with its so-called five key priorities.
- College and Career Ready Students
- Great Teachers and Leaders in Every School
- Equity and Opportunity for All Students
- Raise the Bar and Reward Excellence
- Promote Innovation and Continuous Improvement
The blueprint then goes on to describe each of the components for each of the five areas.
Under College and Career Ready Students, the components are: raising standards for all students, better assessments, and a complete education. What the first component calls for is that every student should graduate college and career ready and that states should adopt college and career readiness standards. It is made clear that states can adopt common standards or use existing their existing ones. I would note here that obviously the Obama administration is retreating just a bit on requiring common national standards. The better assessments called for by the administration must be aligned with college and career ready standards. There is also language that states that these assessments should “capture higher-order skills” and provide more accurate measures of student growth. These tests should also better inform classroom instruction. The final component under College and Career Ready Students is a complete education. The blueprint calls for students to have a well-rounded education. This is defined in the document as being “from literacy to mathematics, science, technology to history, civics, foreign languages, the arts, financial literacy, and other subjects.”
So what does this first priority suggest to me as an administrator. My first reaction is that the first priority means the following:
- Our focus in the schools is going to be on core courses that prepare students for college.
- Because there is absolutely no mention of Career and Technical Education, I wonder if the Obama administration is pondering tossing these programs on the slag heap.
- States are not obligated to adopt common national standards. The early rhetoric from the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan seemed to be a call for common national standards.
- There will be a continued focus on testing just like NCLB 1.0. The Obama administration seems to have attempted to address some educator concerns about tests that do not measure student growth accurately, and tests that do not seem require but the most elemental thinking.
- Tests should also inform class instruction. This is big for teachers and administrators in North Carolina. Our current tests provide no useable information for the classroom teacher or school administrator.
- The call for a well-rounded education seems to address concerns about how our education system has ignored all but tested areas. The problem is, the Obama administration still does not realize, unless it is tested, it is often not taught.
Now that I have had some time read carefully through some of the Obama’s administration’s blueprint for the reauthorization of ESEA, I can see that there were at least superficial attempts to address some of the educator concerns about NCLB 1.0. Still, I am not convinced there is a great deal of difference between NCLB 2.0 (Obama’s blueprint version) and NCLB 1.0 (the Bush version.) Tomorrow, I will try to post on the priority Great Teacher and Leaders in Every School.