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Boxed in by bad policy

Date Published: 05/01/2009


Boxed in by bad policy
By John Fitzgerald
Minnesota 2020 Fellow

Click here to read the full report (PDF).

Click here to see the report's public roll out.

There are about 1,800 principals in Minnesota. Each oversees a school that has been affected by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. While NCLB was created in Washington D.C., it has permeated education down into each classroom. NCLB has forced principals to make draconian choices to meet NCLB requirements, choices made more difficult in Minnesota's atmosphere of declining funding and diminished results.

In December, 2008, Minnesota 2020 joined with the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association (MESPA) and the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) to conduct a survey of principals. More than 740 MESPA and MASSP members participated in the online, opt-in poll.

This survey allowed principals to give voice to their misgivings of the NCLB law, which is up for reauthorization in Congress. The survey found that:

Principals have a lot on their plates: The state has cut school funding 14 percent since 2003, forcing principals to join superintendents and other administrators to become cheerleaders and fundraisers in addition to educators. More than 90 percent of school districts rely on local referendums to meet basic operating needs. Economic and cultural diversity has combined with a burgeoning special education population to make the student body an entirely different institution than it was a generation ago. One half of all teachers leave their first positions within five years, making principals spend a large amount of their time hiring new teachers or working with their district's human resource officer. Principals are responsible for the safety of their students and the well-being of their faculty.

It is in this arena that NCLB creates tension. The job of an educator is difficult enough without having to work with a program that has dubious results.
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