ID Bar
Feature headline
Volume II, Number 9, November, 2004

Four More Years - What the Election Means

NCLB was likely to persist for quite a few more years regardless of the outcome of the presidential election because both parties endorse the (flawed) basic premise that you can improve the learning of students by emphasizing test scores and higher expectations without addressing the serious social issues (like poverty) that are an essential and confounding aspect of poor school performance.

The re-election of George W. Bush means that we will have more than an extension of NCLB, the law. We will also suffer an Ed Department that has violated and will continue to violate decades of Republican values regarding BIG GOVERNMENT and REGULATION coming down on the states from Washington.

NCLB is a two headed monster.

1) We have the NCLB law itself - a terribly flawed reform strategy that shows remarkable ignorance of how schools change and improve.

2) We have the Ed Department's outrageous and often arrogant interpretation of NCLB in the form of rules and regulations that make a bad law even worse.

Taking a 52% majority vote as an endorsement and a mandate, we are likely to see even more heavy-handed imposition of policy from Washington when it comes to education even as regulation is softened for business because BIG GOVERNMENT and REGULATION are supposed to be evil.

Consistency and logic count for little in the face of political power.

But here's the good news . . .

The lack of restraint and the huge amount of political power available to the President is likely to ensnare these would be school reformers in a way that the Greeks understood long ago - the trap of Hubris. Excessive power usually breeds a kind of arrogant assumption that causes the powerful to fly too close to the sun, to assume that one is godly, moral and chosen. These assumptions and this attitude usually lead to excesses and extremes that prove the undoing of the powerful.

Icarus flies too close to the sun.
The wax holding feathers to his arms melts.
His wings fall apart.
Icarus falls to his death.

We can predict with some assurance that NCLB and its proponents' feathers will also melt, that their misguided and damaging strategies will be revealed as incompetent and dangerous and the public will vote next time around to remove those in both parties responsible for the damage.

In many respects, NCLB is like a time release pill. Its most damaging, most punishing and most idiotic elements do not kick in and reveal themselves for another year or two. As these realities surface and the public comes to know the real NCLB, there will be a sudden search for responsible parties - legislators in both parties who should have known better - and there will be sudden flight, a swift washing of hands and a dramatic reversal as members of Congress try to distance themselves from one of the worst experiments in the history of American government.

© 2004 No Child Left and FNO Press, all rights reserved.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.