Through an executive order just days ago, President Obama has changed education policy for the better, but the new policy will also raise some eyebrows. With his decision, the goal of achieving 100 percent passing of standardized tests across the country by 2014 is no longer a mandate. States can now opt out of provisions and ask for a waiver, as long as they work to meet certain requirements. Such flexibility makes sense because children learn and test differently. Districts now must focus on teacher evaluations and standards. (See an article here for more details on the new policy.) While the new policy recognizes that a goal of 100 percent passing is impossible to achieve, the new focus on teacher evaluations and standards is problematic.
Teachers are not the only factor in student achievement. The real focus should be a parent-child-teacher-school-district-community effort. Not just an effort to get teachers to meet standards. Such a narrow effort will lead to the continued scapegoating of teachers, most of whom work their butts off to reach every student, despite a lack of resources and training and large class sizes. Districts must be given the funds to provide training and programs that offer differentiated learning and growth experiences for students of all kinds. The emphasis should be on the exciting subject matter, not the standardized test that follows. Small classes would allow for individualized attention and prompt feedback on class/homework. The entire community should be involved in such a dynamic effort. Everyone, from parents to community leaders, might even agree that standardized testing is not beneficial to students. Unique learning opportunities that meet individual as well as community needs and lead to college and/or career readiness might work better.