When life gets complicated, one of the most alluring concepts to consider is a fresh start. Wouldn't we all like a second crack at the tasks we've made harder through mistakes and inattention?
In the case of No Child Left Behind, you have this chance, sort of. While every school district is making efforts to meet the law's myriad requirements, there's no question that if administrators rewound the education scale two years, many, if not all, would alter how they went about meeting NCLB's requirements.
We know there's no turning back the clock on the rules and regulations for English and math, but the next series of No Child requirements will start in 2005 with science. The subject will bring with it familiar requirements in standards, assessments and highly qualified teachers.
Unlike with English and math, administrators actually understand what this means before it happens. I'm not saying school leaders didn't understand NCLB when it took effect, just that the broad sweep of regulations seemed to stun most educators into at least a period of inactivity. I remember many conversations where administrators wondered how, for instance, the highly qualified teacher requirement would play out. Some people's attitude was that this section of the law can't be met, and the unsaid part of that equation was whether they alone should spend a lot of time, effort and funds to try to meet this regulation. Although many districts have yet to fully do so, I'd bet every one is now making an effort to improve the percentage of highly qualified teachers it employs.
Districts and states have already been down this path, so coming up with standards and assessments for science should be less of a mystery than doing so for English and math. That doesn't mean the job will be easier. Although our cover story ("Ready or Not?" page 32) offers advice and practical examples to help, it's obvious that two problems exist. Today's science standards may not be the ones that districts want to bring into the world of high-stakes testing. And secondly, with such an emphasis on math and English, many districts have shunted science to the back burner, or taken the subject off the stove all together.
But even that problem may have a silver lining. Science educators know that without NCLB requirements in their field, science would continue to shrink in importance. So the new requirements offer school districts not only a chance to get a working set of standards and assessments done, but an opportunity for science to become an important subject again.
Wayne D'Orio,Editorial Director