A report in eSchool News discusses potential updates to the No Child Left Behind legislation, with a focus on "21st Century Skills." While I always look forward to recommendations from fearless bureaucrats whose children attend private schools in suburban Maryland and Virginia, it appears that the chair of the House education committee (George Miller, D-Calif.) might be on the right track.
Those of us in Ed Tech (and education in general) have been aware for some time of the increasing need for students to think critically and effectively deal with the glut of information they now have at their fingertips. We have talked at length about teaching students to use technology as a tool to be competitive globally and to achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity, rather than as a crutch to crank out more of the same old work, only in this century with only a modicum of thought. How do you transform a graphing calculator into a tool for learning physics concepts or testing encryption algorithms or considering metal fatigue in a bridge, rather than just solving another system of equations? If Miller has his way, schools, states, businesses, and colleges will be working together to answer questions along these lines.
Technology aside, Representative Miller made an important concession:
"Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair, that it is not flexible, and that it is not funded," he said. "And they are not wrong. The question is, what we are going to do next?"
Fund it and make it more flexible? Well, hopefully. Republicans and teachers unions have already voiced strong opposition for certain components of the proposed changes (like merit-based pay increases for teachers and incentives for teachers in high-need areas of the country) that might deep-six the spiffy parts about keeping our students competitive in the 21st century.