Looking to the Past

September 07, 2007 1 min read

As we wrap up this week where people are debating NCLB’s future, I’d like to ask you to think about the past.

In “No Child Left Behind: What Would Al Say?” published in the Sept. 5 Education Week, Richard D. Kahlenberg draws on his research for his new biography of Albert Shanker. He suggests that the late president of the American Federation of Teachers wouldn’t have liked several elements of NCLB.

Even though Shanker was one of the biggest proponents of standards-based reforms in the 1990s, he had a different vision than what emerged from Congress in 2002.The four key differences that Kahlenberg identifies are:

1.) NCLB sets a goal that all students are expected to reach. Shanker wanted a variety of goals that give each student a challenging but reachable goal.

2.) NCLB creates consequences for poor student achievement on adults, but not students. Shanker said that any testing system had to give incentives for students.

3.) NCLB lets all states set their own content standards; Shanker advocated for a single set of national standards.

4.) States have relied mostly on multiple-choice testing to comply with NCLB’s enormous testing burden. That went against Shanker’s desire for high-quality assessments that give reliable, valid, and useful information.

Kahlenberg suggests that NCLB would have been a better piece of legislation if Shanker had been alive. I’m interested in hearing from you about what you think. I’d especially like comments from those of you who knew and worked with Shanker.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.