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Published at 10:16 PM on November 20, 2008
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The crucial flaw of NCLB, in my opinion, is that is fails to inspire. The law has many other faults, of course, including its lack of funding and regimented focus on testing. However, the root problem is that NCLB is attempting to use an evolutionary methodology for a truly revolutionary goal – almost total proficiency. There is no easily articulated goal which all citizens can rally around: the standards are convoluted and the metrics for success are continually redefined in contradiction with themselves. Doug Noon perfectly captures this, in the context of Kennedy’s space program:1

If we’d have used an NCLB-style approach to the Apollo moon mission, President Kennedy would have simply ordered NASA to fly conventional airplanes higher and higher until they fell out of the sky, and then blamed the pilots for lacking the will and the know-how to get the job done.

How can we reach for the moon with education?

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  1. Doug's site is currently down, but you can look at the cache.

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I have been following your blog for just about a week and find your insight and writing to be superb. Period (Not “…for a high school student.”) How can we reach the moon? Maybe we should talk with you and other students who are outstanding in different ways about what shaped their intellects and imagination, how their schools and communities helped, and/or how they became good thinkers despite adverse conditions.
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@Deborah: Thanks for your kind words. I think students certainly can help to craft a strategy and message for reaching the “moon.” Unfortunately, any such attempt requires the support of teachers, administrators, and politicians. In the current economic client, politicians tend to attack education as an out-of-control expense rather than thinking about how to improve it. People once (and still do) say the same thing about space exploration… This approach is terribly short-sighted, as long-term improvement only comes through investment in the minds and innovations of the future. Once again, thanks for stopping by!

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I just discovered your site — I look forward to reading more. Anyway, I’ve always found NCLB ridiculous for a number of reasons but mostly because all it did was add crap upon crap, which … well, take U.S. Government 101 and you’ll see is the basis of our federal government. Put simply, what was the point of having a federal mandate that is a) unfunded and b) left to the states to implement? If you’re so focused on having the whole country reach one standard, why would you have that standard reached 51 different ways? Letting the states figure this all out more or less destined this thing to fail. I probably echo a lot of comments you get by saying I wish I had students like you. Mine barely work to the SOL-set minimum. Keep at it!
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@Tom: I absolutely agree: having states decide the standards is entirely paradoxical to the stated goal of having all states reach a common goal. We’re actually seeing states with poorer education systems get the top scores by lowering standards while states like Massachusetts struggle to meet the high goals they have set. A “reformed” NCLB would be funded and would share common standards—though said standards wouldn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same.

Thanks for stopping by!

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