A 5-Point Solution for What Ails NCLB

In his back-page commentary for the May 17, 2007, issue of Education Week, Paul Houston offered one of his last major critiques of the No Child Left Behind Act.

AASA’s executive director acknowledged that lambasting the law was easy. What would he do to fix it? He advanced five proposals:

1. Fix the assumptions. “Stop blaming the professional educators who must carry out this retooling, and construct a system that supports their work. Create schools that children want to go to, schools that emphasize meaningful and engaged learning and acknowledge that imagination is as vital at age 18 as at age 5.

2. Put testing in context and emphasize depth in education. Keep measuring individual growth, and disaggregating data to make sure all groups are being taught well. But put more emphasis on depth, rather than just making sure that all the standards are covered.

3. Use a change strategy that emphasizes collaboration. Do as the Irish do and bring both state and local district experts together to decide what models will further points one and two.

4. Focus on a strategy of addressing poor children. End what Houston calls “the hard bigotry of inadequate resources.” Look to better health care and pre-school programs.

5. Renew America’s commitment to innovation. Creative thinking should be harnessed to save the school’s most creative subjects, art, music, drama and writing. Require any new mandate in education to undergo what Houston calls “an innovation protection assessment” to make certain it does not unintentionally undermine creativity.

— Jay Mathews