TC's Nadelstern: For Accountability Alone, Approve Revised ESEA
In March, Congress will likely vote on whether to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known since 2002 as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The law has been both hailed as a major step toward ensuring that all students succeed, and criticized for an undue emphasis on testing that has narrowed curriculum and penalized schools in poverty. With new legislation proposed in the form of the Student Success Act, the debate over reauthorization continues to heat up. We’ve asked experts from the extended TC family for their thoughts on the issue.
The following commentary is by Eric Nadelstern, Professor of Practice in Educational Leadership:
Most of my 39-year career with the New York City Public Schools was pre-NCLB. During the entirety of that time, there was no accountability for student performance for teachers, principals, superintendents and chancellors. Chancellors came and went every two-to-three years, but none were replaced because kids weren't learning.
NCLB changed the accountability landscape. For the first time, schools were being evaluated and compared to each other on the basis of student performance. And with that came accountability consequences.
Over time, we learned to compare progress in like populated schools rather than hold all schools, regardless of where their kids started, to the same outcome goals. Principals were rewarded or replaced on the basis of whether their students were learning, progressing and succeeding. Of late, teachers have been exposed to accountability and consequences for how their students perform.
I will concede that we are still at a rudimentary stage of being able to effectively assess students, teachers and principals on the basis of student progress. But we learn more each year, and we no longer evaluate school personnel solely on how well they get along with their supervisors. For that alone, Congress should reauthorize NCLB.
The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.