NCLB – What is Missing?

Scott Adams captures in a nutshell what is wrong with No Child Left Behind in his post today. By focusing exclusively on the negatives – who is failing and what punishment will be meted out – the program misses the opportunity to recognize what is working and to reward students and teachers for their successes. All stick, no carrot.


Of course he never mentions NCLB – what he talks about is one of the most effective ways of getting people to change their behavior. Don’t believe me – go read it here.

Don’t get me wrong – finding out where schools are not performing and shining a light on it has helped in many ways. That is essential and vital work that needs to be done. But by being fear based NCLB will probably not produce long term systemic change in the ways it’s authors hoped for.

Think back to the teacher that had the biggest impact on your life. I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that they brought out the best in you rather than carping on your faults. They inspired you by helping you discover what you do well.

survey_results.jpgThe real trick would be to combine accountability with recognition. For example – a school couldn’t be labeled Needs Improvement unless the state also found some things that they were doing right and recognized those things. And yes – there are plenty of recognition awards for teachers. But, in a state like Texas maybe 500 out of 290,000 get recognized each year. If your school fails – everyone looses their jobs. It seems disproportionate.

NCLB was meant to attack complacency – and that is a real problem. Punitive sanctions will drive people to change their behavior but it probably won’t drive them to change what they believe about themselves.

But of course you knew that because the kind of people who read this blog care about education and about serving kids. People who have that passion are desperately needed in this world and you are making a difference by doing what you do. Thanks.