We Need Systemic Solutions, Not Quick-Fixes
No matter how many state NCLB waivers the U.S. grants, we won't succeed in providing every student with an opportunity to learn until we address the inequities at the heart of our education system. In a powerful op-ed in the Jackson Free Press, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP and president of One Voice Mississippi, writes that "the absence of a new federal education framework authorized by Congress has placed Mississippi between a rock and a hard place: to either continue the failed policies of No Child Left Behind or apply for a waiver and be subjected to unrealistic requirements."
The kind of national framework we need is outlined in the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign's "2020 Vision Roadmap: A Pre-K Through Postsecondary Blueprint for Educational Success," Johnson says, contrasting OTL's comprehensive and systemic approach with the "quick-fixes" that policymakers currently favor:
"Forcing states to implement more of the same reforms to avoid penalty makes little sense, especially considering the magnitude of problems in our education system. Without an emphasis on inputs and resource allocation, inequalities in education opportunity and attainment will persist.
The Mississippi State Department of Education currently addresses struggling schools that lack adequate resources and strong teachers by appointing conservators who have the authority to make "quick-fix" changes such as arbitrary closings, firings and other reforms in an attempt to "turn around" the worst-performing schools. This approach continues to ignore the mounting evidence that reform focused exclusively on outcomes actually widens the achievement gap. It also amounts to a refusal to fix the growing inequities in educational funding that exacerbate student underachievement and pose the biggest roadblock to teacher effectiveness."