Directions in Education:
Innovation, Collaboration and Communication
Dr. Geraldine Chapey
change is in the air and taking hold everywhere. With the new
governance law, Mayor Bloomberg now has full responsibility for
the success of all preschool, elementary, middle and high schools.
Joel Klein, his newly appointed Chancellor of the Department of
Education is busy conducting team meetings on his initiatives
in his bull pen office at the magnificent Tweed Courthouse neighboring
City Hall. The recently constituted Board of Educational Policy
has formally had its first public meeting with the Chancellor
at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx.
Another fundamental change taking root is the expansion of the
federal role in education with the landmark No Child Left Behind
(NCLB) law. This is a dramatic mandate to insure collaboration
and communication among all levels of government–Federal, state
and local–for the purpose of improving student performance.
education is constitutionally a state responsibility, the Federal
government has strongly influenced America’s policies on school,
most notably with the historic Great Society Program of President
Johnson (ESEA Title I) and the 1975 Education of All Handicapped
Children law (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act, IDEA) signed by President Ford. On January 8, 2002 President
Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind act–the fulfillment
of a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
As I write, sweeping changes in education are taking place throughout
the United States. This reauthorization of Title I redefines in
a very dramatic way the federal role in K-12 education, seeking
within the next 12 years to close the achievement gap between
those who succeed and those who fail.
With strong bipartisan support from Congress, this new legislation
is serious, and has muscle as never before. Federal aid to schools
will be dependent on student learning results; accountability
will be determined by mandatory annual testing of children in
grades 3 to 8.
Focus will be on improving student performance on assessments
through enhancing parental involvement, use of data to make decisions,
understanding scientific research–especially in the area of reading
strategies–curriculum development and professional development.
Networking and integrating these essential elements will assure
that all component programs collaborate, communicate and share
the same goal–that of improving student learning. The most pressing
items of the law are directed to schools designated as those “in
need of improvement” or failing under existing Title I programs.
What’s ahead with NCLB?
2003–Parents who have children enrolled in schools that have failed
to improve for two consecutive years may transfer their children
to another school of “choice” within the district or may enroll
their children in an approved “tutoring” or “supplemental services
2004–All paraprofessionals in Title I schools must have a two
year college degree or pass a state exam.
2005–Schools with a history of failure must be restructured or
closed. All teachers must be highly qualified and certified.
New York State anticipates receiving $1.3 billion in federal aid
for NCLB, over $600 million of which will go to New York City
and $120 million to pupil transportation.
New York State schools, parents and children are already on the
board for many of the recommended changes. Since 1996, when the
Board of Regents and the State Education Department set new standards
for High school graduation, education reform has been a top priority
in New York State. In 2003, students in high school will be required
to pass Regents exams in five subjects: English Language Arts,
math, Global Studies, United States history, and science. All
teachers must be certified by 2004. As noted recently in the New
York Times, “Standards in New York now rank among the highest
in the nation.”
As leaders of change, the Board of Regents and the State Education
Department, in consultation with districts and professionals,
are well on their way to implementing the NCLB law and are fine
tuning New York State policies to align them with the law.
Profound change in policy such as that identified by the NCLB
law cannot be accomplished overnight. It will take time to train
administrators, teachers, parents and related personnel.
The sweeping changes in education currently underway are providing
educators, parents and students with a fresh start and a renewed
sense of vitality to take advantage of the promise of a new beginning
for education in the twenty-first century.#
Geraldine Chapey is a member of the New York State Board of Regents.
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