Saturday, September 27, 2008

NCLB Fragmentation

Fragmentation (Kingdon 118) is perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses in education’s “policy communities,” (Kingdon 117). No Child Left Behind shows evidence of this policy fragmentation. However, the national legislation does a good service in uniting some of the broad perspectives in the policy communities and shaping the “national mood” (Kingdon 146) and changing the chemistry of the “policy primeval soup” (Kingdon 116). The initiative was an impressive “recombination” (Kingdon 152) of education ideas and passed into law because it met the criteria for survival: “technical feasibility, value acceptability within the policy community, tolerable cost, anticipated public acquiescence and a reasonable chance for receptivity among elected decision makers,” (Kingdon 131).

The lack of “lingua franca” (Kingdon 120) in dialogue about education’s problems and solutions is evidence of its fragmentation. “The consequence of system fragmentation is policy fragmentation,” (Kingdon 119). We can talk now of state content standards, ‘teaching to the test’ and the educational gap, but the issues, benefits or causes surrounding these ideas lack familiarity. “Diffusion among specialists involves two different kinds of subject matter: awareness of problems, and agreement on solutions or proposals,” (Kingdon 139) and I feel there neither consensus on the problems in education nor agreement on any proposals.

Fragmentation in educational policy communities, and the resulting policy initiatives, is partly a result of the hasty resistance of opposition groups. “If there is some conflict among the organized forces, then political leaders implicitly arrive at an image of their environment that strikes some balance,” (Kingdon 150). The rabid reactionary unions, legislators, and others mean necessary reform will be avoided: “trial balloons” (Kingdon 129) are too dangerous, and thus the policy communities are never “softened up,” (Kingdon 128). “Planning failures are the consequence of events engendered by strong opposition coming from many different quarters,” (Beneveniste ch.7).

No Child Left Behind seems to be a recombination (Kingdon 124) of two major policy ideas: greater national support and leadership of public schools and the implementation of open market forces. It was evident that the national mood (Kingdon 146) was open to some sort of movement on education reform and “policy entrepreneurs” (Kingdon 122) like Senator Kennedy took advantage of a “policy window” (Kingdon 166) to advance reform. Any plan that promises massive federal funds will naturally ‘grease the skids.’ The “plan is bent to suit interests,” (Beneveniste ch.7) and included merit-based funding to please the “value advocates” (Kingdon 123) of market fundamentalism. And “once a government program is established, the clientele it benefits organizes into an impressive collection of interest groups,” (Kingdon 152). The law was passed only to the later disappointment of many who had hoped for the entire sum of promised federal funds.

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