Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Real Reason for NCLB Waivers #edreform

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Eric J. Ban left the corporate headquarters and took over as principal of a large suburban high school. In 2008, he published a work about the lesson learned during his experience titled, College Acceleration: Innovating Through the New American Research High School.

It's a great read and I recommend it to everyone concerned about the American high school and our desire to hold onto an outdated and ineffective school model. But this post is more about Ban's prediction that eventually forces would begin to sweep away NCLB as we know it. He made this prediction prior to the Obama-Duncan era and sure enough, it was based mainly on his personal experience and understanding of how affluent forces primarily found in suburban areas really control our political agendas. There was absolutely no way suburbanites were going to stand for their schools being labeled failures once the 2014 requirement of all students scoring proficient grew near.

The leaders of corporate America live in suburbia. The traditional suburban high school serves the needs of their already well-served kids. Their image is important in the most confident country in the world. As NCLB begins to label their schools as failing, NCLB will be quietly whisked away [emphasis added] like the mimeograph machine after Xerox developed the copier. There are too many problems with the current federal accountability picture for high schools. High schools are a complicated animal for oversimplified state accountability systems to be applied in a fair and relevant way. Corporate and political leaders will redirect the focus and embrace a new acronym to beat up urban education [right again -- it's now called PLA or persistently low achieving], and the cycle of reform that ignores suburbia will continue indefinitely. (p. 6-7)

Affluent suburban schools have been for the most part able to skirt the entire NCLB debacle, only joining in occasionally with the cacophony of concerns over the tremendous amount of time wasted on high stakes testing. But for the most part, the testing had little impact on their image since the vast majority of suburban students scored relatively higher than their urban poor counterparts. Only as 2014 loomed did it become apparent as Ban points out that suburbia's image would soon be tarnished by a flawed accountability system. Just in the nick of time, Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan came along and have recently begun to kick the can down the road to protect that image.

Poor urban school districts have been shown to have little voice or power in the halls of Congress and state legislatures compared to their suburban neighbors. They'll continue to carry the water for America's public school reform movement.