Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, on the two year anniversary of No Child Left Behind
Just two years after NCLB was signed into law, an historic shift is well underway. No longer is it good enough for schools to send some of their students off to prestigious colleges or to have high overall averages. To be a good school now, a school must be good for all of the students it serves.
This law represents our first real commitment as a nation to both raising overall achievement and closing the achievement gap that has for too long separated low-income and minority students from other students. That the President has not adequately funded this historic law, however, is compromising efforts to make it work. In fact, the under-funding allows conversations to shift from how were going to meet the goals, to whether we can meet the goals.
The President must follow through with the resources to make No Child Left Behind work. That said, its important to recognize that raising achievement for all students and closing the achievement gap between groups of students will take far more than money. Does money matter? Yes, certainly, but it doesnt stop there. Time and time again, we have proven as a nation that when we are committed to something–and when we focus our time, energy, thoughtfulness and, yes, resources–we see incredible results. Now is not the time to limit ourselves — in vision, hope, action or finances.
A Crisis of Confidence
There is currently a crisis of confidence over whether or not our public schools are up to the challenge of educating all students. Its clearly not going to be easy to make such profound changes in the way we educate our students. But there is no question in my mind that our public schools are up to the challenge. As we journey around the country, we hear constantly from educators, community activists, state leaders and parents that the basic tenets of this law disaggregated data, public reporting, accountability for all groups of students, and a focus on helping teachers improve their skills are central elements of an effective strategy to help public education fulfill its mission of educating all children.
A Turning Point
This nation is at a turning point. Instead of disguising the underperformance of many of our students under overall averages, weve turned a corner as a nationand taken steps to lift the veil from achievement gaps and confront the opportunity gaps that produce them.
Every day of the school year, there are countless schools proving that when you teach kids at high levels and provide them with the support they need, they absolutely can achieve. Indeed, some whole districts are well on their way to figuring this out. Many educators are now focusing on learning from these successful schools and districts.
Weathering the political storm
Discouragingly, many in both political parties are putting politics ahead of whats right for students especially low-income and minority students. Yes, this law and its implementation ought to be discussed and talked about publicly, and concerns need to be addressed. Indeed, weve been among the most vocal critics of the Administrations handling of the teacher quality provisions in the law. But political grandstanding undermines serious efforts to truly educate all students; this is reckless, wrong and counter-productive
The Road Ahead
This lawapproved by overwhelming majorities of both Democrats and Republicansasks a lot from educators. Its easy to be seduced into thinking that national policymakers were unfair for asking too much, too quickly. What nobody seems to be focusing on in all this is whats fair to the students themselves.
Yes, making this law work will be hard. And yes, more money would help a lot.
But finally, all across the land, the honest conversations are beginning, the long-needed changes just starting to be cobbled into place.
Theres a lot of work to do. But this Nation has taken some important steps on the path toward education equity, and we must not turn back now.
The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is thisAll children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels. For more information, visit our web site: www.edtrust.org.