I’ve been thinking about methods of resistance to the negative effects of NCLB and have wondered why, in the age of anti-incumbancy and conservative state rejection of federal stimulus money, why we haven’t had some innovative social configurations providing a calculated, rational, evaluative revolt against NCLB.
By my understanding of the law, it exchanges federal education dollars in return for states to come up with a standardized performance indicator (test) that is administered yearly in schools, and that there must be significant consequences –including administrative firing, teacher replacement, funding drops — tied to the outcome of those tests. Because the federal government does not have jurisdiction over education (the reason they can’t mandate the test themselves), all of this is tied to the federal dollars that a district receives. Last I checked, the actual average amount of federal dollars that are funding real, living schools has dropped from about 13% in the Clinton era to about 7% through Bush II and to the present. Some of that is tied to other initiatives (like ADA) that would be legally required to maintain funding.
So it strikes me that there are many avenues for creative leadership:
A strong, brash, well liked, mavericky governor (perhaps with greater political ambitions) holds a press conference and declares that the NCLB legislation, while well meaning, cripples our educational system and deincentivizes real learning. The state will reject the NCLB guidelines and will increase state funding for education by roughly the amount lost by the state.
A truly innovative state leadership would, perhaps, merge together multiple interests: provide some methods of accountability that result in providing professional development, leadership workshops, or student services based on need. It could offer a series of statewide grants for participation in different assessment models or voluntary changes in formal structure and accompanying research to get a good sense on the effects of the changes. Thus, even public schools could elect to move towards a participatory, inquiry-based, or standards/classical model and provide public school choice to locals.
I am not sure of how the state laws that accept NCLB are worded, but I’d imagine some of them limit the NCLB performance indicators to the relatively small amount of federal dollars that are provided directly to the school. I would imagine a district could then opt out of the state standardized test and forgo the federal dollars, making it up in other ways from the local budget or possibly with some help from innovative educational foundations. They would probably need to have a form of visible assessment to provide leverage in the public forum, but I think the public sentiment has recently come a lot closer to the “Multiple choice tests don’t really evaluate that much” viewpoint, and a district test that is demonstrably more higher-order could stave off the pro-assessment critics and provide additional support within the district.
Of course, given the current financial crises, few locales have the budgetary flexibility to increase their share to make up for lost federal dollars, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder why it didn’t happen somewhere in the past, and whether or not there is potential for it to happen in the future