Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ed in '08

Yes, I’m alive, and despite the long absence, I’ve been doing a lot of deliberating recently. After a spring break trip back to the mainland, we had a week of state standardized testing – a lightning rod subject in education circles.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) measures educational progress based on these tests, and fourth grade is a benchmark year. I was pretty nervous, and after my own attempt to gauge how my students did, I had plenty of reason to be. I don’t think they fared very well, despite the growth many of them have made. Unfortunately, schools don’t currently get credit for growth – so even if a fourth-grader moves from a first grade reading level to third grade, he/she still can’t hack the fourth grade test.

This is the only criticism I’ll lay on NCLB, as you can hear plenty of it from teachers, administrators and unions across the country. And, quite honestly, I’ve become a supporter of it in principle. The goals are unrealistic, and there are most definitely gaps in the framework, but the way it has brought at least minimal accountability to the classroom is a step in the right direction.

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If this experience is teaching me anything, it’s that the problems within our system are ridiculously complex and massive. Because of this, I’ve become wary of any quips and soundbites from critics or politicians – even critics of NCLB because the problems can’t be solved by any simple solutions.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with the Broad Foundation are aiming to put education at the forefront of the 2008 presidential discussion. As anyone who’s begun to follow this has already seen, Iraq is dominating the conversation, but the Gates and Eli Broad are hoping that $60 million is enough to grab the nation’s attention. Check it out at

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