What parents want in a renewed NCLB

Signing upToday’s Tribune editorial proposed that a renewed No Child Left Behind law be based on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “waiver” program, by which they mean more testing and “accountability.”

I wrote this response (though the Tribune has not printed one of my letters in quite a while…):


The Tribune’s editorial proposal that a renewed No Child Left Behind law be based on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “waiver” program is not supported by research, best practices, or most U.S. parents.

For example, test-score based teacher evaluation is strongly discouraged by experts at the National Academy of Sciences and elsewhere as unreliable and potentially damaging.

The Tribune’s overall idea of “accountability” is rejected by most Americans. For example, 54 percent polled by Gallup in 2010 agreed that the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support. Only 17 percent wanted to close the school and reopen it with a new principal, and just 13 percent wanted to replace it with a charter school.

These findings are echoed in a July 2013 poll of public school parents by the American Federation of Teachers, which found that 77 percent support strong public schools over expanded vouchers and charters. 57 percent agreed that there is too much emphasis on testing today.

No one has more at stake in better schools than parents, but parents want improvements to be based on responsible, effective policies, not the misguided and destructive initiatives of Secretary Duncan’s waiver program.

Most parents support fair, adequate school funding, smaller class sizes, and experienced teachers who are respected as professionals. We want our children to be treated as individuals, not data points. And we refuse to be used as pawns in corporate reformers’ “parental choice” game. Parents across the U.S. want a real, substantial role in all decisions that affect our children’s schools, such as the one provided by Chicago’s local school council system.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.