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Scholars Prepare for ‘No Child Left Behind’ Discussions

By Debra Viadero — September 27, 2004 2 min read
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Three national education groups, including some of the profession’s most distinguished scholars, are launching a series of public forums this fall to lend some academic context and counterpoint to discussions about the No Child Left Behind Act.

“It seems pretty obvious that people don’t know much about No Child Left Behind, though they may favor it because it sounds nice,” said Nel Noddings, the president of the National Academy of Education, a group of about 100 leading scholars. The academy is sponsoring the discussions with Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society for educators based in Indianapolis, Ind., and the National Society for the Study of Education, a Chicago-based research society.

In a national poll published earlier this month, for instance, 68 percent of Americans said they knew nothing or next to nothing about the 2½- year-old federal law, which is the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s education agenda.

For all three organizations, the forums also mark a departure from usual practice. Officials of the three groups said their organizations have tended to be reluctant to weigh in on the most contentious political and public-policy debates in the field.

“But the implications of NCLB on the professional lives of teachers,” said Michael P. Wolfe, the executive director of the 55,000-member Kappa Delta Pi, “make it worth having a healthy conversation.”

Objectivity Encouraged

The New York City- based academy of education is providing the speakers for the talks, all of which will be free and open to the public.

Besides Ms. Noddings, who is also a professor of education emerita at Stanford University, the speakers include: the educator and author Theodore R. Sizer, a professor emeritus at Brown University; Deborah Meier, the founder and principal of Boston’s Mission Hills School; Catherine Snow and Patricia A. Graham of Harvard University; and P. David Pearson, Judith Warren Little, and Alan Schoenfeld, all of the University of California, Berkeley.

Although some of those scholars have openly criticized the federal law, Ms. Noddings said members are being encouraged to make their talks as objective as possible.

Two test runs for the talks, held last spring, drew 100 to 200 people each. The forum officially kicks off Oct. 6 at the University of California, Berkeley. More forums are scheduled throughout the fall in San Francisco; Gloucester and Cambridge, Mass.; Austin, Texas; New York City; and Columbus, Ohio.

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