Michelle Rhee, the innovative founder of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools, spoke about the new Obama administration No Child Left Behind waivers when she appeared on CNN on Wednesday morning. “American Morning” host Christine Romans asked, has NCLB been a bust?
“I don’t think so at all. Let me be clear that the law is not perfect. I think everyone knows there are some changes and modifications that need to be made, but I don’t think that anyone can doubt that it has brought a new level of accountability to American schools,” Rhee said.
“We are looking at data in a way that we never have before, we are paying attention to sub-groups of kids and saying that it’s not okay for certain groups of kids in your school or school district to be failing and in those ways, it’s incredibly important.”
On Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan used the White House briefing room to announce that all 50 states could apply for waivers from the No Child Left Behind requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Georgia will apply.
Michelle Rhee again on CNN: “We want kids to meet the standards. Now, is that all that should be happening? No. One of the things you see is tests only test certain subjects, often times math and reading, and sometimes what schools do is go overboard and they just try to jam reading and math down the kids’ throats. That;s not the answer.
“The research shows that kids who have access to a broad-based curriculum are the ones who do better academically. But also we shouldn’t go to the other direction to say testing is evil, testing is bad. We have to be able to, in a very objective and consistent way, know whether or not kids are learning and meeting the standards. The way we do that is a standardized test.
“One of the things that drive people nuts about No Child Left Behind is that it sets certain benchmarks for proficiency. X percent of your kids have to be at proficiency and it goes up every year until 2014 when 100 percent of your kids are supposed to be proficient. People look at that and say, it’s not realistic.
“We have to be able to look at growth. Is the school moving student achievement in the right direction? Are the students growing to meet certain targets? Instead of having a binary distinction of either met Adequate Yearly Progress or you have not, what has the growth looked like? We have to modify the system so that achievement and growth can be taken into account without there being this strict binary yes and no.”
The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people; the politicians and political parties change with them.