19 March 2007

Nothing Endures But Change

While there's no reason why Heraclitus would have had NCLB in mind when he wrote the quote I've used for today's header, I'm sure that ancient Greece was no less full of sturm und drang than the world we live in. Education and politics have been bedmates for a long time. We in the public schools might wish that they would go to couple's counseling once in awhile; however, it looks unlikely.

Personally, I don't mind a bit of change. What I do mind is that "we" don't seem to leave any initiative in place long enough to really examine what the effects are. There's always the bigger better thing on the horizon. By "we," I mean both educators and politicians. There is plenty of guilt to go around for both, but today, I'm going to point the finger (you can guess which one) at the political side of things.

The National Science Teachers' Association (NSTA) sent out this update this afternoon:

More than 50 Republican members have signed on to a bill, the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act of 2007 (A-PLUS Act), that would allow states and districts more flexibility in implementing state-based initiatives using federal education funding. If passed, this legislation would fundamentally alter the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

The A-PLUS Act would allow states to "opt out" of NCLB if it held a referendum or if two out of three state entities---the governor, the state legislateion, and the state's highest-elected education official---decided the state could no longer meet the law's accountability mandates. States that elect to opt-out would still get federal funding and could combine funds from certain education programs into one funding system. They would be freed from the requirements of each federal education program and could use the funds to advance their initiatives.

You can read more in a Washington Post article, a detailed description on the NSTA website, or a section-by-section summary provided by NSTA. This is certainly not a change which would be limited to science---so go poke around for yourself and see how things sit. I like the idea of more flexibility, but I worry that the ability to opt-out may mean that those groups of students which have traditionally been "left behind" will be allowed to fall through the cracks again.

Within our own state, there are bills in both House and Senate which would alter our current testing in math and science to end of course assessments for algebra, geometry, and biology---all of which would be multiple choice items taken in a web-based format. I find this possible change disturbing. It is such a slap in the face to all of the work teachers and students have done to become better thinkers in math and science. Science is so much more than a set of terms in biology. It is irresponsible to send students away from high school without the tools they need to adapt in an ever-changing world...one which includes probability, chemistry, measurement, and process skills.

Right now, there isn't a lot I can do except prepare to roll with the changes. Whether I like them or agree with them or not is really not part of anyone's considerations. I just need to endure.

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