by Wana Duhart
No Child Left Behind has given us the working framework that we had been hoping for to ultimately complete the task of establishing and implementing effective mandates and guidelines that can lead to equitable and high quality K12 schools for all children. While the original NCLB initiative has a range of shortcomings and problems, it definitely swung the door wide open for what will be the defining legislative landmark for transforming how we educate elementary and secondary students in the 21st century. The funding and program issues — as well as the degree of opposition — reveal how much work is yet to be done if we expect to get it right the next time.
NCLB’s benchmarks and standards have definitely paved the way for educators, policymakers, and the rest of us to do the hard work of redrafting the legislation so that it makes sense in the contexts of different student subgroups and diverse school environments. We should credit the roll out of NCLB for pushing us toward embracing more innovative and meaningful reforms and solutions. The requisite timetables and accountability measures are causing school officials to embrace new experiments and prototypes to protect their schools and teaching professionals.
The academic success of schoolchildren depends on the capacity of the adults to be the change agents and innovators that students need them to be. We owe it to our young people to demonstrate the leadership and vision that will give them more opportunities to excel in the classroom and beyond. It is in fact the grownups who must decide whether they can muster the will and commitment to move beyond personal and political agendas, as well as the fear of change, to effectively respond to the glaring weaknesses and failures in classrooms and schools everywhere.
America’s students and the public at large are counting on the adults in the room to stand up and finally make a difference in the grand scheme of K12 public schooling. NCLB has given us a solid policy foundation for elevating the standards, accountability, and achievement of students and schools. Now all we need is for education stakeholders across the board to do the hard work to refine the legislative mandates that are currently in place in order to achieve equitable and accessible schools for young people across the learning spectrum.
No Child Left Behind has opened the door wide for us to seriously engage one another concerning the direction we want to see K12 education proceed. It should not be too difficult for us to acknowledge that we’ve grown tired and impatient with the failures of school leadership and management. And there’s nothing wrong with raising our expectations of the students and the teaching professionals as we revamp the legislation. The confluence of broad ranging reform initiatives by many sectors and the need to establish a workable K12 legislative framework have the potential to produce the creativity, innovation, and flexibility that we desperately need to ensure higher academic standards and greater accountability for all of our students and the schools they attend.
Wana Duhart is the Founder and CEO of Trahud Enterprises, which develops alliances in education that yield innovation, creativity, and flexibility in public schooling. and has spent three decades working in varying capacities across many sectors. She is the author of the book A Call to the Village: Retooling Public Schools and publishes her own blog, The VillageSpace.