This week president Barack Obama signed into law a new education reform bill, shoving off the old ineffective Georges Bush’s No-Child-Left-Behind one. The signing was grandiosely publicized. The president sat in his golden chair, flanked by friends and foes alike. A triumphant smile beamed on his nut-brown face and, with a stroke of his pen, he seemed to have risen to crimson splendor, putting his own stamp in the open-ended education debate.
If Obama was physically sitting in a chair, politically he was standing tall as he reminded America that despite all the political trivia that have been characterizing the two-party system, common ground could still be found. This was a rare show of unity in the midst of one of the most awkward form of disunity.
The document, which was signed, is lengthy and quite substantial. It has to be thoroughly examined. With all intellectual probity, it cannot be judged until it is seriously analyzed. One thing, however, dominates the headlines: Standardized testing. According to pundits and advocates alike, standardized testing is being substantially reduced and teachers can no longer be evaluated on the basis of test results. There’s a clause, however. It is up to every state to figure out the appropriate mechanisms for accountability.
What does this mean for teachers? Teachers are the backbones of education, soldiers in the trenches, but yet they’re the ones everyone loves to trash. At the surface they seem to have made a token victory on the issue of tying teachers’ performance to the students’ test results. As for the students and their parents, they are being left at the mercy of mediocre executive directors and other dubious figures who represent all that is wrong about public education—not the teachers. We’ll see.
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