Noguera: Policy Raises the Bar, But Educators Lift Up the Nation

This morning, Pedro Noguera took the stage to open ASCD’s 2010 Conference on Teaching and Learning, advocating a bolder vision of school reform. After his session, he took questions from attendees. Check out a recap of this informal Q & A in the Conference Daily.

Noguera put narrow mandates on achievement as measured by high-stakes state tests in his crosshairs and called for broader efforts to close the achievement gap, particularly considering how schools are affected by social and economic factors in urban environments.

Noguera, who’s a state authorizer for charters in New York and acknowledges union shortcomings, nonetheless criticized distorted school reform propaganda like the recent film Waiting for “Superman”. To say unions are the problem and charters are the answer without showing positive examples of school and union partnerships, or recognizing that 40 percent of charters are worse than public schools, is distorting the issues, Noguera said. In the current reform landscape, the complexities of education issues are not getting through, he added.

Noguera echoed sentiments of Richard Rothstein (closing general session speaker at this conference—watch the livestream Sunday morning) that schools can’t do it all and that NCLB’s scarlet letter-style approach to reform will not work.

What Noguera does endorse are whole child approaches to education and a well-rounded curriculum. He cited examples from Brockton High in Massachusetts to the Bronx’s Eagle Academy to Texas’s high-performing, high-poverty Brownsville School District.

He challenged policymakers to consider how current and proposed reforms connect to the realities of school communities. And he encouraged school leaders to open their doors to the community and better capitalize on the instructional resources down the street or even across the hall.

Without strategies, NCLB’s 2014 goalpost is just a date. Raising the bar is easy, how school communities get to there is the real challenge. To that challenge, there’s no gimmick solution. In fact, Noguera said, the solution is the same as it’s always been—whether we have teachers in place who have command over content and can teach it in multiple ways, do we have the ability to build relationships, what are our support systems for the multifaceted needs of students, is our leadership behind our efforts, and are parents and community involved and accountable too?

“The future of this country will be determined by what’s done in our schools,” Noguera said. He closed by asking attendees to spend the weekend discussing,

“What are you doing right now to focus on the right things in your school?”

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