Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has just introduced a proposal to “fix” No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
While restoring excellence in education will require more than a fix to the bureaucratic law—states should be allowed to opt-out of NCLB entirely—Alexander’s Every Child Ready for College or Career Act would improve upon existing statute in several ways.
Notably, it would allow states to make their Title I dollars portable, giving children the option to use funds at any public school of choice. Title I portability is a good goal, but it should also include the option for children to use their share of funding at a private school of choice as well.
Other improvements to Title I include the elimination of “Adequate Yearly Progress,” the well-intentioned but inappropriate federal goal of universal student proficiency in math and English by the 2014–2015 school year. The proposal maintains the requirement for states to set challenging content and achievement standards (defining levels of content mastery at basic, proficient, and advanced) and retains the requirement for states to test students annually in grades 3–8 and again in high school in math and reading. And it still requires states to make that information available on public report cards.
The proposal also eliminates the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) provision, which placed significant emphasis on credentialing, despite little evidence that credentialing improves teacher effectiveness. Under existing statute, the HQT provision mandated that any teacher of a core academic subject be state-certified and hold a bachelor’s degree. In its place, school districts would be encouraged to develop teacher and principal evaluation systems that take student achievement outcomes into account.
Read more here. Upon cursory reading, it sounds good (although the title "Every Child Ready for College or Career Act" should raise warning bells) and a relief from the centralization of education we are currently facing. But as you read it again, it's more of the federal government setting mandates for how schools should use curriculum and funding, and more mandates on teacher certification and testing. Is Alexander just using different words for the same policies? Agreeing if this is good policy or not requires having historical knowledge on politicians and educational movements.
Revisit a MEW article on Lamar Alexander and his words from 1989. From Are Arne Duncan's Educational Reform Plans from a Republican Playbook?:
Lamar Alexander lays out the plan to restructure education at the 11-2-1989 Governors Conference on Education in Wichita, Kansas. The Conference title was "Schools, Goals and the 1990s". As George Bush, Sr's Secretary of Education, he implemented education restructuring as America 2000 that specified creation of the New American Schools Development Corporation. He is currently senior Senator from Tennessee and Conference Chair of the Republican Party.
Transcript of Speech
1989 Governors Conference-Lamar Alexander
.... As far as I know, this is the first state summit following the President's summit, and I think that's a great credit to your governor of the State of Kansas, to be doing that. At least your timing is good!
I would suggest three things:
Number 1: Find out what's really going on because I don't think most people know---- what's going on in schools, how children are growing up, what's really going on in the world.
Number 2: I want to suggest that you create, in Kansas, a brand New American School. Brand New American School.
Number 3: I want to suggest that when you do that, you help that new school develop some new goals and new report cards for itself.
I would go down to the maternity ward of the local hospital, or whatever you call the part of the hospital where the nurses are who are there when the babies are born. Find out how many babies are born out of wedlock, how many babies are born with single parents. Just so you know that!
I would think the Brand New American School would be year-round, open from 6:00 to 6:00.
A second characteristic might be that these schools will serve children from age 3 months old to age 18. That may be a shocking thought to you; but, if you were to do an inventory of every baby in your community and think about what the needs of those babies were for the next four or five years, you might see that those needs might not be served any other way. They have to be served in some way and maybe around the school. Or, if you study a little more, you might go back and think the school might have to serve the pregnant mother of the baby in terms of prenatal healthcare....
...teams of teachers. Albert Shanker suggested that maybe there ought to be a team of teachers attached to a child from the day that child arrives in the school to stay with that child all the way to the 8th grade.
All this would mean there would have to be a very professional corps of teachers, wouldn't it? They'd have to be very, very good because they would have to be dealing with lots of volunteers. We have a big national service feeling in America today. Why aren't those people working in schools? Well, one reason is it's hard to handle volunteers!
So, this team of highly trained principals and teachers would have to have career ladders. They would have to be master teachers. They would be paid $50,000-$60,000-$70,000 a year to create a Brand New American School in every state capital.
The great advantage of that is there wouldn't be all these arguments of whether to do this program, or that program, or which one to do first. You wouldn't do any of them! You would create just one school and you'd give the responsibility to one person who would form one team. You give them one year or so, and if they succeeded, then all the rest of us would want to be in that school, too! Wouldn't we?
Senator Alexander advocated for:
These ideas from 1989 have been incorporated into Arne Duncan's Race to the Top mandates. Later postings will provide information on how educational policies presented at this 1989 Governor's Conference foreshadowed the elitist takeover of education we currently find ourselves.
- Tracking students from birth
- Community schools providing various services other than academics
- School open year round
- 12-hour school days
You can thank George Bush Sr. for arranging this conference.
So exactly what is Lamar Alexander's underlying belief of educational direction? Is is 2013 or 1989 vintage? Or is the same, just repackaged?