Reg Weaver: On Education, 2008, NCLB

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The plan had been for Reg Weaver (left), president of the National Education Association(the largest professional union in the United States), to discuss last week's Democratic presidential debate and just what the candidates said on Weaver's number one issue: education.

The candidates did not cooperate.

“Education was not a topic at all,” said Weaver. “There was not even a discussion, not even a debate. There was not one question asked specifically about education.”

Lack of education discussion aside, there was still plenty to talk about in debate's aftermath.

Weaver did note that a few of the candidates, most notably Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, did briefly mention the issue. But altogether, education was not on the discussion menu last Thursday night. “Education received no attention at all,” said Weaver.

“I think the American people want to hear about that as much as they want to hear about the war, about healthcare.”

In the shorter term, Weaver did hope that Congress would move to reform the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's ambitious, bipartisan public school reform of 2001 that is currently up for reauthorization. Top on his list was a more nuanced method of measuring student success, one that would chart a student's growth rather than just his or her score on a standardized test.

"One test should not be the sole mechanism to determine whether or not a student is successful

," said Weaver, whose other reforms include a renewed push for smaller class sizes and incentives for the best teachers.

Another issue that has raised the concerns of some middle-class communities across the country and right here in the City is the NCLB's transfer provision, which allows students from a school deemed failing to transfer to any passing school in their district, no questions asked. Weaver noted that this has concerned him for years, since it can lead to the destabilization of good schools while failing schools are still failing. If children leave school "A" for a better school "B," then school "A" is still failing and school "B" can start to look like school "A" without the proper support, he said.

“It can be a disadvantage and create situations, create environments, that are not necessarily conducive to good learning,” said Weaver

, who added that he has not heard much talk about this issue recently.

Another stated goal of NCLB is the idea that every single student in the United States will perform at grade level by 2014. Is such a thing even possible? Weaver said his union will do all it can to make it happen. “We’d certainly like to try to make sure that every school is successful, and that every student has access to a great public school, because it is a basic right,” said Weaver.

For the future, Weaver hopes that presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle will focus on meaningful education reform, creating an environment that fosters good teaching and engaged learners, and not rely on quick-fix schemes.

"I certainly hope that nothing comes that is really out of the ballpark,” said Weaver.

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