The handcuffs of NCLB

While taking a break from the work I was supposed to be doing recently, I found myself typing these words to a colleague:

It occurs to me that if the testing environment were not so toxic right now, we’d be ready for a real revolution in providing content. The technology is available to do a lot of open-source mathematics teaching; the ideas and community exist. But Larry and Stu aren’t really in a position where they feel they have the right/obligation/opportunity to move away from the published curriculum very far. If they toe the line and make modest progress on test scores (or none at all), they are covered. If they bust a move and see anything besides phenomenal gains in their first try, they have reason to be very, very worried. And furthermore they can’t count on collegial and administrative support along the way.

Those are the handcuffs that frustrate me. Without the constraints of NCLB, we wouldn’t need the big publishers much longer.

Within the constraints of NCLB, we get Khan Academy (which gets called ‘revolutionary’ but is not) and teachers are free to reform grading (SBG anyone?). But we don’t get meaningful curriculum change; least of all open-source curriculum.

2 responses to “The handcuffs of NCLB

  1. While I understand and would amplify your concern, I can’t help but feel the need to say that SBG really does allow for meaningful curriculum change, as long as you’re willing to go all-guns. The word “standards” is a dirty word, and I wish SBG had a different acronym, but who cares when it allows me to use my class time for whatever I want, because the students know I’m going to communicate and design with them the big ideas that we’re going to distill out. That’s why I’m so SBG crazy, I don’t have to do six million drill-and-kills on parabolas, which neither teach parabolas or anything beyond middling habits of mind. I can spend my time forcing students to recognize where the mathematics of parabolas exists, and they can decide how much practice they need to become proficient with the mechanics because the assessment piece is no longer adversarial. That said, isn’t Geogebra almost too good to be true?

    • Interesting point, Shawn. I agree that assessment can drive curriculum change. I’m not convinced that it always does.
      Do you have any sense of how frequently teachers start down the road of SBG and end up reworking their instructional practice in meaningful ways? I ask on the assumption that you are better tuned in to these issues than I am .
      And GeoGebra? Great stuff. I’d be curious to know more about how you use it.

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