President Obama – Blueprint for Education (reform of NCLB)

The other day eSchoolNews reposted the White House's release of information on the guidance President Obama wants to provide legislators on reforming (overhauling) NCLB.  Below is the 5 minutes and 56 seconds that President Obama devoted to education in his weekly address: 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player.swf

The eSn article does a nice job of pulling together a number of wire and staff reports on both NCLB and the President's new "Blueprint for Education in America".  I'd recommend taking a quick read and then following up with some research of your own.  

The one message that kept popping up to me from the President's comments, those of Arne Duncan, and some of the language in the "blueprint" was along the lines of moving away from a single score model and into a growth model for students. 

"Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded…"

Overall, a great move.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Education Department (ED) would support the development of better state assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills and not just multiple-choice responses. States would get formula-based grants to redesign their assessments in reading and math to make sure they align with college and career-ready standards.
  • A focus on effective teachers and principals would call on states and districts to develop systems for evaluating and supporting these individuals, based on student growth and other factors. The plan also calls for a new program that would support efforts to recruit, place, reward, retain, and promote effective teachers and principals and enhance the teaching profession.

I love the possible focus on student learning and teacher support.  Hopefully, that will equate to more time for teachers to learn and grow professionally as opposed to some of the meaningless tasks we saddle them with in the name of "accountability", "transparency", and just plain lack of treating teachers as responsible highly educated individuals who actually know what they are doing.  

However, I did find this quote by Amy Wilkins, VP of Education Trust, rather interesting (ok, read that as comical…) 

“One of the things America has not been clear about is what K-12 is supposed to do… In this, we’re saying K-12 is supposed to prepare kids for college and meaningful careers.”

Really?! No wonder we have been getting this all wrong for the last 20 years… We were confused. 

Insert SoapBox under my feet here: Seriously folks, educators need to stand up and take control of OUR profession. Teaching has often been called a labor of love, "a calling", we need to move that bar to become a full fledged professions with all the respect accorded to doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.  With control of our standards for both ourselves and our students.  Control of our benchmarks for performance, and the shaping of the tools of our trade.  We need to demand the respect accorded to others.  The majority of the adult populations of the world drive vehicles, but we teachers don't tell auto manufacturers how to manufacturer cars… 

I hear people grumbling there are federal guidelines for safety for automobiles! Consumers vote with their dollars and car manufacturers comply or go out of business… really? I'd like to see congress mandate year over year fuel efficiency improvements of 7% per year until cars are 100% fuel efficient or pollution free… how about clean energy or alternative fuels by percentage year over year… 

How about the tobacco industry?!  Some of the top companies in the world are involved in an industry whose product not only harms millions of lives every year, the federal government mandates that that same industry provide funding for people to get assistance to STOP USING THEIR PRODUCTS… 

Yet, almost all Americans in those and every other industry has gotten an education and feels compelled to explain how teachers, some of the most highly educated individuals in industry, in essence, do not know what they are doing… amazing…

Ok, I am off the soapbox now.  I hope that this "blueprint" provides the guidance that educators are looking for… 

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