America has resolved the raising of the national debt ceiling through bipartisan legislation and averted catastrophic economic consequences, or so we are told. However, like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, is it once again government smoke and mirrors?
Are we in the midst of a national grass-roots effort to alter the government policy in public education begun with No Child Left Behind in 2002? Does this renewed energy for a new path forward have the potential impact to change the course of public education as the Tea Party freshmen have had with the debate about the national debt and spending priorities?
As Anthony Cody, grass-roots teacher organizer of last Saturday’s Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action in Washington D.C. states: “No Child Left Behind was a huge national experiment based on the so-called Texas Miracle, which turned out to be a hoax.” Many educators and leaders in public education agree with his assessment.
Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities speaking at the SOS rally, exclaimed in a halting, passion-filled voice: “We are not here to moan and cry and ring our hands. We are not here to beg the Congress and the White House to make a couple incremental minor changes in NCLB. Or in the mania, the pestilence of testing, like some terrible disease like mad-cow disease that spread across this land, we are here to say you cannot fix this awful law. It needs to be abolished altogether.”
The tragic thing is Race to the Top still relies on student test taking as pillar of its policy foundation. This is not to confuse the absolute importance of public school systems that are accountable for results with the regime of testing. The public school system must be accountable for results, but education is so much more than test taking. Isn’t it?
Matt Damon, actor, addressed the crowd at the SOS March delivering a call to action with eloquence about the issue of only relying on fill-in-bubble testing as the coin of the realm in public education. Speaking about his own public school education, he said: “I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself—my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity—all come from how I was parented and taught. And none of these qualities that I’ve mentioned—none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success—who make me who I am…can be tested.”
Kozol went on to add that there is more than a reliance on testing for which the government should be ashamed. He said, “that is not the only policy of government that is causing havoc in our schools. The wild inequalities of funding are more savage now than they were twenty years ago…add to this…$7,000 for the poorest children in America and the $30,000 for the richest…add to this… the rapidly increasing racial segregation of our nation’s schools, our schools today are more segregated, racially and economically, than anytime since 1968, the year ironically that Dr. Martin Luther King was taken from us.”
Is it possible with the same fervor the “Tea Party” came to Washington with last year that public education could rally thoughtful and intelligent voices to change the status quo? After reading and listening to YouTube videos on the Save Our Schools event I am hopeful that a spark has been lit. When does a rally become a movement?
Breaking News: Today the SCCOE Superintendent and Board are announcing the retirement of Dr. Charles Weis, Superintendent of Santa Clara County Office of Education, as of June 30, 2012. The Board will be working on developing a plan to choose Dr. Weis’ successor in open public meetings in August and September.