Your Local School District and NCLB

Harold Kwalwasser, February 6, 2012

The No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to be renewed five years ago. For all sorts of good reasons, it should have been. For all sorts of bad reasons, it wasn’t.

If you live far enough beyond the Beltway, you might attribute the inaction to the partisan gridlock that has been driving everyone in the country crazy. But, for once, that is probably a wrong diagnosis.

There are genuine differences in policy here. All sides in the debate (and in this case there are really three or possibly four) are right about some things. The problem comes from everyone’s steadfast refusal to see anything else, like their own visions’ weaknesses or the merits of their opponents’ ideas.

But that is a lot better than the usual Washington mindset these days, which seems to be: “If he’s for it, then I’m against it.”

In other words, there is the possibility, however faint, that the members of Congress and the Administration might actually be able to cut a useful deal – at least if they are willing to park the rhetoric at the door.

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My commentary in Education Week on NCLB

Harold Kwalwasser, January 11, 2012

I wanted to forward the following email from EDUCATION WEEK.  The paper asked me to be one of a dozen or so education experts to comment on the tenth anniversary of No Child Left Behind.  By clicking on the link, you can read what each of us has had to say about this important, if frustrating, effort at federal education policy.

Here is how my commentary begins…

There are at least two great challenges in renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law known in its current edition as No Child Left Behind.

One is the tension between Washington’s desire to dictate what it considers “good policy” and the reality that the best school district is one that gives capable leaders wide discretion to adapt to the diverse possibilities each faces in providing quality instruction.

Enjoy the full article….

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Welcome to Renew Our Schools

Harold Kwalwasser, October 25, 2011

Our goal is simple: Every one of us needs to help renew American public education. But that has to mean more than simply voting for someone who promises to “make our schools better.”

“Renewing Our Schools” aspires to be the place where you come to find out what it will take to breathe new life into America’s schools – and how you can help.

This website will offer ideas and a vision of what our schools can become, and – equally importantly – strategies about how to bring others to embrace the same vision.

Some of the ideas will come from us, but the goal is to start conversations focused on concrete solutions to specific problems where the ideas, suggestions, and observations come from all members of the education community. There are extraordinary numbers of educators, parents, and other concerned citizens who have innovative solutions and great perspective that should be shared. What they need is a place that will amplify their voice in a way that counts.

That is why we are going to post commentary regularly that invites you to respond. Sometimes it will be simply an invitation to comment, and at other times it will be to answer specific questions that we can collect and then share as your collective wisdom about important education issues…

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Are great teachers good enough?

Harold Kwalwasser, August 23, 2011

I have a new article up on Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post.

We love to talk about teachers – good teachers, bad teachers. Our entire narrative about schools seems to revolve around finding good teachers and firing bad ones.

In a way, it’s not surprising. We love to reduce complex issues to “people stories,” especially when we can paint one kind of people with white hats and pin black ones on somebody else.

As appealing as it is, there are two problems with the “good teacher, bad teacher” narrative. The first is that it plants certain unspoken images in our heads, which we often wind up accepting as true without examination. We unthinkingly know what we know – to our peril.

Take a look

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