When I first heard John Goodlad's speech at February's AASA conference, I was too surprised to really consider it.
Goodlad, a longtime education advocate, told the crowd of about 1,000 district leaders not to concentrate on No Child Left Behind and whether it would survive. (By the way, that's the subject of this month's cover story, "Open Season") Instead, he said to think about what would take its place when NCLB is discarded. "We've got to come together because our political and business leaders have failed us," Goodlad continued.
At the time, I was knee-deep in No Child. In the course of completing this month's story, I interviewed Secretary of Education Rod Paige and others, attended numerous No Child-related sessions at the AASA conference, and discussed the finer points of DOE regulatory changes with a helpful Terri Duggan Schwartzbeck, AASA's policy analyst. While the story is all about the viability of NCLB, I hadn't stopped long enough to think of what will happen to K-12 education when the law goes away.
Certainly, No Child will not be law forever. In fact, it might not last until 2008, even is President Bush is re-elected. So, as Goodlad posed, what will follow?
It may be overly optimistic to say the next education law will come from a consensus of education officials, but since this is my space, I'll propose just that. And because it's always easier to think about an idea when it has a name, I propose we call the next education law simply All Children Reaching Their Potential. (I know ACRTP doesn't roll off the tongue like NCLB, but so be it.)
While most superintendents oppose high-stakes testing, the majority agree that using data to interpret what students are learning can be a real help. Many also like the idea of breaking out groups of students and making sure each group is progressing. These parts would stay.
Goodlad mentioned the lack of happiness among educators these days, and how this feeling will eventually envelop students and society. Frederick Morton, the Montgomery County (Va.) Public Schools superintendent, rails against the "deprofessionalization" teachers and other education officials face today, in large part because of the criticism from Secretary Paige. To counter this, the new law will recognize teachers and other professionals as just that, professionals. in turn, these teachers and administrators will point out what's wrong in education and help fix these problems.
Because I don't have all the answers, and I was inspired by your ideas, I'll stop here. If this is going to continue, I'll need your help, so please send your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see if we can keep adding to the list of things to keep in education.