With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Broader, Bolder Report

As the battle around NCLB re-authorization heats up, the question remains of whether there will be substantial changes made in the old test-and-punish law or simply a cosmetic name change.

A new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) Campaign makes a strong case for making substantial changes. For example, it calls for using multiple measures and better tests when it comes to assessing kids, teachers, and schools. BBA wants the feds to rely more on the an expanded National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and test kids on a broader range of academic subjects, including the arts, physical health and fitness, citizenship habits, and other necessary knowledge and skills.

Barack Obama appears to generally favor the BBA line on testing--which would be a significant break from the Bush/NCLB era. At a town hall meeting in Green Bay earlier this month Obama reiterated his call from last year’s campaign:
“If all we're doing is testing and then teaching to the test, that doesn't assure that we're actually improving educational outcomes. We do need to have accountability, however. We do need to measure progress with our kids. Maybe it's just one standardized test, plus portfolios of work that kids are doing, plus observing the classroom.”
In another major break from the NCLB approach and from the line of the more conservative think tankers, BBA's report continues to make their case that schools alone, can't be expected to overcome the effects of poverty and historic racial discrimination on the so-called achievement gap.

Ironically, conservatives at the Fordham Institute claim they find the BBA approach, "eminently sensible". But Fordham's Mike Petrilli only tips his hat to the report after mistakenly claiming that BBA has moved away from its previous focus on economic and social equity issues. Writes Petrilli:

That's a big surprise, for in the past this coalition has appeared eager to refight old battles about whether schools can be expected to help poor kids reach high standards.

Petrilli had better read the report more carefully. BBA still appears to be fighting the "old battle" which the report's authors call the "fundamental challenge facing America's education policymakers." Amen!

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