Hey All – I figured I would kick-off my blog by writing about what truly inspired my research. In order to provide a holistic picture, I have to go back to 2001 when the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into legislation. At the time, I didn’t know that it was just a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act that President Johnson signed in the 1960’s. In fact, I recall hanging out with my friends and brothers and one of our older neighbors had been reading the newspaper and told us about the Act and its name. We didn’t bother to stick around for the details because we were excited. I remember celebrating because we all believed that No Child Left Behind meant that No Child would be left back/held back or forced to repeat a grade again. Simply put, we thought we were immune to failing.
In hindsight, I can’t believe how naïve we were when I was 11 years old. In all fairness, though, I was raised in an inner-city neighborhood, neither of my parents possessed any level of education beyond high school – and it was in a foreign country. I later went on to graduate from a high school with a 40% graduation rate and beat my older brother to college. My freshman year of college, I became really involved in learning about the achievement gap and its economic implications. Moreover, I began to see the impact it had on my childhood, my community, and my friends. Thus, against the advice of a few mentors, I launched a 501(c)(3) education nonprofit with a group of friends at Cornell called Practice Makes Perfect (www.pmpnyc.org). The social enterprise focused on the summer learning loss, which the National Association for Summer Learning says accounts for two-thirds of why the achievement gap exists.
The National Association for Summer Learning has spent the last three years trying to redefine summer school in low-income, urban areas. Historically, students who performed poorly on exams or had behavioral problems were sent to summer school as a sort of punishment while their friends were on vacation having fun. The reality is that the students who were on vacation were the real “losers” as they suffered losses between two and half to three and a half months of academic learning. The No Child Left Behind Act with the Title I provision dictates how funding is allocated for some of the poorest schools in the nation. As our program grew by 300% last summer, I began to grow more interested in identifying federal funds that would help us sustain ourselves and expand our reach.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to visit the Department of Education and was introduced to many of the waivers that existed and was told that the Act was over-do a reauthorization. Although this is a little ambitious, I hope through my historical analysis that I can provide some insight as the policy-makers hammer out a new draft of this critical legislation.