By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director
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No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its companion, the Common Core, are fading away; soon to be only a memory. . . just a memory. A good or bad thing? Will we, a few years from now, be chanting a version of, “Come back, come back, come. . . School bells, wishing wells, sun burns, long turns.” Just a memory.
As recorded by various singers, including Train (2014), Just a Memory ends with “Come back, come back, come back baby for I am who you used to love. And you are just a memory.” As its end approached, many states, schools, educators, parents, and others found it hard to love NCLB and the Common Core. Will we embrace what comes next? Will education in the US reach the place where all traces of the Common Core have disappeared? While there are many positives to states being more involved in setting standards and designing their own improvement plans, will we look back fondly to the days of testing and wonder “where have all the assessments gone?” Or is there a chance that today’s assessments will be a stepping stone to a new era of better, more meaningful assessments? Will we use our experiences to advance? Or will it be only a side-step?
Will schools actually be able to move forward? Is there a chance that what the states have learned from NCLB and the Common Core will help schools move into the 21st Century? When “Every Student Succeeds” will pundits, politicians, bureaucrats, families, and educators be able to sing out a melody of hope or will it be more like the lament of Switchfoot (Sing it Out! 2009), “Feel like a ghost this time.Where have you gone?’
At CEI, we are pleased to see that, at long last, we have a reauthorization. Many of our followers celebrated the attention to accountability with the Common Core. At the same time, we were frustrated by the time and attention on testing — testing that created horrendous imbalances as the social emotional aspects of learning and student interests were neglected. . . testing that often did not give educators what they needed to improve instruction, assessment that far too often was over shadowed with punitive threats.
So will the states get it right? Will education and learning advance? We urge educators to be involved — to make sure our voices are heard as ESSA is implemented. Speak up, so that we help to ensure that the long, hard years spent in designing and implementing complex and multi-layered Common Core assessments will serve as a platform for Mama Cass’ New World. Coming in peace and love.