I blogged less than a week ago that the national civil rights groups, in a caring but misguided way, were fighting hard to push for the accountability measures to remain a part of NCLB, without realizing the core damage it is doing to all students. No sooner had I posted that blog than the Senate voted on its version of NCLB. There now needs to be a series of committee meetings between the Senate and House to reconcile the bills. However I finally got to peruse a few articles outlining what the Senate voted on, and there are two big points that were included and, I think, made for good legislation:
1. Testing: still in. but enforcement is out.
This is likely the best news that came out of the Senate bill, and hopefully will stay in, despite this being the biggest thing the President wants, and that national civil rights groups are fighting for. In a nut shell: schools will still be required to test students, and will still be required to release data about sub groups based on race, ESL learners, special education, etc. However, any enforcement of this will come down to individual states. Civil rights groups are upset because this means now having to fight with 50 (mostly cash strapped or politically hostile) states to punish schools and teachers when kids don’t perform well on tests. My thinking, and the way that I think these Civil Rights groups are thinking, is that states are going to find lots of ways to start saving money and perhaps listen to reason at the same time, and find alternative means to deal with this. To make matters worse for the national civil rights groups, their locals on the ground have started to break ranks with the nationals after seeing the damage that enforcement is unintentionally causing.
2. Public money is going to stay public.
Republicans had pushed a lot for putting in language that would allow tax payer money to follow kids to various religious and charter schools. This was not a part of the Senate bill. This means that tax payers won’t have t o worry about money being spent on religious schools that they may not agree with philosophically, and (perhaps more importantly than that) won’t have to worry about some charter school transferring money and material out of state to a place where there are more kids or where the company needs to chore up its place in the community.
My guess is that since no one is actually against accountability, states will need to decide on how they want to deal with this, and money will be an object. My guess is that with teacher shortages getting ready to become a reality, states will use this as an opportunity to give schools more flexibility with accountability, and I suspect that this means that tests will go back to being one of many tools schools use to examine what they are doing, and perhaps restore a sensible system for evaluating teachers (one that doesn’t require as many administrators, one that doesn’t require a massive number of hours to do, and one that focuses on keeping and fostering talent instead of driving it out. That’s my hope.