Back in 2002 when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act came into effect, I asked my mother what that meant. She told me how there would be a lot more student testing and for schools that didn't meet the federal standards, punitive sanctions would be imposed from replacing principals and staff to closures. "Doesn't it make sense that if a school is failing, they need MORE help?" I asked. "You would think so," she replied and we both shook our heads in despair.
Today is a new day. President Obama signed into law the Every Child Succeeds Act which replaces the NCLB. Lauded as one of the few bi-partisan efforts in Congress lately, the new Act greatly reduces testing down to once annually from grades 3-8 and then once in high school. It also transfers teacher evaluations back to the states and leaves it up to state administrations to decide how to handle failing schools. No longer is there an unreasonable standard that says one size fits all and all schools must pass reading and math at 100% (which NCLB aimed to do by 2014, so much for that).
Good, good, we're seeing some shifts, but New Mexico is still in dire straits. Since Gov. Martinez appointed Hanna Skandera as Secretary of Education, it feels like half of my public school teacher friends have quit. Using MORE testing and a teacher-intimidating tool called the Value Added-Method, the current administration uses a fear-mongering approach to test-taking. The message is, if you don't do well on these tests, your teacher will be fired. Luckily, last Wednesday, a Santa Fe District judge "ruled that the evaluation system is neither 'highly objective' nor 'uniform statewide,' and he temporarily banned its further use in evaluating teachers until a trial can be held on its scientific reliability. The ruling came in a lawsuit by five state legislators, the American Federation of Teachers, and several individual teachers who argued that the evaluation system is nonsense."
While I'm still not completely convinced that my child might have a decent chance at a meaningful education in public school, I think the last week has shown we're on the path to some improvements.