Friday, February 26, 2010

Bipartisanship in education policy is a process, not a prize

In response to Nick Anderson's February 18 Washington Post story "Lawmakers to launch a bipartisan effort to redo No Child Left Behind" Amina wrote a letter to the editor published on Friday, February 26:

Bipartisanship in education reform? Not so fast. Given languishing health-care reform, jobs-bill wrangling and the filibuster shadow cast on Congress, it's easy to mistakenly consider bipartisanship the prize instead of the process.

Public education has be susceptible to this kind of thinking. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with its testing mandates and punitive policies bemoaned today, was passed with healthy bipartisan support in 2002. Public education is trick and deceptively hard. Man policy ideas sound good: more pay for good teachers, more school choice, more money. With Republicans not wanting to be labeled "obstructionists" and Democrats wanting to get something done, it's easy to imagine public education becoming a political olive branch.

Lawmakers must resist this temptation in the NCLB rewrite. Let's use the reauthorization of NCLB to transform a profoundly dysfunctional system and to look at bipartisanship as a process and not just prize. Our children deserve more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Linking test scores and teacher pay hurts students of color

Amina responds to Lisa Guisbond's commentary in The Washington Post:

A hearty thanks to Ms. Guisbond of FairTest for your astute analysis of the Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s plan and the fundamental shortcomings of connecting high stakes testing to teacher pay. To it I would add that these schemes tend to most negatively affect the very students we purport to want to help. A 2009 study by the Government Accountability Office on the effects of No Child Left Behind’s high stakes testing mandates showed that schools with high poverty and high concentrations of students of color are most likely to adopt strategies such as narrowing curriculum and teaching to the test. While the whole system is warped by standardized testing policies, these students receive the brunt of them.

We appreciate the Obama Administration’s promise to revamp No Child Left Behind, however, throwing away elements such as the Adequate Yearly Progress provision does not remove the single most corruptive issue of over reliance on standardized testing, in fact, connecting it to teacher pay may ultimately exacerbate the problem. With drop-out rates vastly outpacing that of their white counterparts, poor Latino and African American students are floundering in the public education system. This trend threatens to continue as long as we refuse to look for more thoughtful reform strategies, recognize these students’ experiences, and meaningfully connect with their communities.