Sunday, April 25, 2010

To Bend or To Break: Flexibility in the Blueprint for Reform

During this past Thursday's Advocacy Day, two members of the US Department of Education presented those assembled in the Hall of the States with some of the highlights from A Blueprint for Reform. One of these highlights was the new school rating/classification system.

In the No Child Left Behind version of ESEA, schools either made AYP or they did not. Schools either passed or failed. According to the DOE, these classifications were too narrow. I agree.

In the No Child Left Behind version of ESEA, the response to failure was heavily prescriptive improvement plans. According to the DOE, this prescription was too narrow. I agree.

In the No Child Left Behind version of ESEA, successful schools were those that implemented a prescriptive set of practices. According to the DOE, our goals should be tightly defined and our methods should be more flexible. I agree.

The only problem comes in the implementation of these flexible measures. According to the DOE, flexibility is only allowed in successful schools. Low-performance schools, altogether about 10% of the nation's schools, would need to follow a prescribed path to redemption. I disagree. So did a number of members assembled in the Hall of the States on Thursday. Many asked why low-performance schools, institutions classically in need of flexibility, would not be given latitude to reach their goals. The answer was rather surprising.

Both gentlemen concluded that all students must successfully reach the tightly defined goals because students can no longer afford to be unprepared for a college education. They even have this defined clearly in the Blueprint. All students will be college- and career-ready.

I wanted to get this dialogue started because I think it is important for people to discuss how these new policies will affect them. Unfortunately, all of my resources with which I would write are packed in boxes as I wait to move into my first home this week. I guarantee that this week-end I will bring some other thinkers' thoughts to this discussion, but for right now let's take the topic head-on.

Should low-performing schools be given the flexibility to accomplish their goals?

Should they be prescribed a remedy?

Will this remedy even be remedial or will it be more of an intervention strategy?

I look forward to reading others' thoughts on this portion of the new legislation.

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