Publication Type: Web Article
Year of Publication: 2006
Holland, a Virginia NBCT, recommends this book for educators coming to terms
with NCLB, although he questions some of the author’s claims, such as how NCLB
encourages teacher empowerment from the bottom up. The book
Kimmelman, P.L. (2006). Implementing
NCLB: Creating a knowledge framework to support school improvement. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
By Paul L. Kimmelman
2006 (208 pp/paperback)
by John Holland, NBCT
Pre-School (Head Start)
In order to write a proper review of this book I needed to take
a little screaming, whining, fussing, partisan part of myself
out of my brain and put it on top of my CD cabinet next to
the Radiohead and Ani Difranco CDs. With my inner crybaby
sitting on the shelf, I read this book almost in one sitting.
It was simply fascinating, like looking at a colony of ants
and having a one of the ants explain what is happening.
Mr. Kimmelman states his reasoning behind writing this book very
This book is an attempt to be a useful resource for understanding
how NCLB became a law. More important, however, this book
is intended to help educators realize that standards,
accountability and assessment, teacher quality, parental
options, and reforming schools were important but ignored
issues for a long time before NCLB became a law. It is
my hope that understanding what may well have been the
mistakes of the past by not recognizing and implementing
the trends or recommendations from policymakers and business
leaders may prevent repeating the mistakes in the future.
Kimmelman goes on to say that "Arguably, the real goal (of NCLB)
is for schools to improve and base their improvement work
on practices and programs that have evidence they work."
This simple, pragmatic approach to what Kimmelman reminds us, is
a federal law, makes sense to me deep down. As the son of
a grocery store manager of 30 years, I have an approach to
top-down change that is different than some. When my supervisor
tells me what to do, I do it. I may question their decisions
with them one-on-one at a later time, but, once the order
is given, I follow it until it is time to question it.
I am not sure what side of the political fence Kimmelman hangs
his policy hat on, but I do know that this book wants one
thing, for sure. It wants to believe in NCLB. It describes
the vision behind No Child Left Behind as noble, worthwhile,
and not unreasonable as a goal. The big "Idea" behind No Child
Left Behind is entirely agreeable to most (bleeding heart)
teachers at the most basic level. It is a socialist idea that
lies at the core of that entirely American belief that anyone
can become anything if they do well in school and keep their
Kimmelman says that educators "must understand the importance of building
their organizational capacity and undertaking the process
of reform on their own to prevent more policy mandates in
the future." His goal is to bring attention to the need for
educators (and in particular, we assume, educators at the
top of the food chain) to build "organizational capacity through
a knowledge model to meet the rigorous requirements of NCLB
and to successfully implement school improvement initiatives."
Kimmelman then goes on to describe in practical detail (using a very
business-type language) how to create a site-based group of
teachers and stakeholders who look at data, come to conclusions,
find relevant research, and implement interventions. Kimmelman
links implementation to teacher leadership, although it's
not a topic he spends much time exploring. He says: "School
administrators are encouraged to consider the idea of teacher
leaders for professional development activities." He does
remind administrators that this leadership "should be
real leadership...It should actually empower the teachers
to accomplish the goals of the activity in much the same way
that principals and other line administrators are delegated
Kimmelman then goes on to describe—and maybe I am wrong here, but
I understood him to say—that NLCB actually empowers teachers!
I thought as I read this, "Can this be right?" Is someone
trying to give teachers the power to decide how they teach
The process of how to take ownership for the decisions regarding
implementing interventions is not simple, he admits. There
is not a lot of valid research out there yet on various interventions.
But the NCLB law's emphasis on peer reviewed research paves
the way for teachers to start doing their own action-research
and begin to take part in the shaping of education from the
bottom up. Wow! Is that cool or what!? Is that really in NCLB?
Well, Mr. Kimmelman thinks so, and I want desperately to believe
I was reminded by a state board of education representative
recently that "NCLB is not going away." In fact, as Kimmelman
points out, NCLB is just the latest in a long history of federal
involvement (meddling?) in school decisions. It began with
Sputnik in 1958, then came the Elementary and Secondary Act
of 1965 (one I am particularly fond of because it created
Head Start), and then various national reports and summits,
including A Nation at Risk (1983) and Goals 2000
Concerning NCLB, Kmmelman admits, and this is an important admission,
It was unrealistic for Congress and the U.S. Department of
Education to think that, suddenly, every school and state
in the country was going to rapidly embrace the notion
that every student would make "adequate yearly progress"
regardless of whether it was educationally possible, or
that every school district would be able to ensure that
all its teachers would be "highly qualified" by 2006.
Although noble objectives, rather than accept the challenge,
many educators and their organizations simply chose to
put their energy into opposing the provisions of the law
despite the fact that it was considered by many to be
morally and ethically appropriate.
What Kimmelman doesn't really address—but what needs to be
said—is that NCLB left those "many educators and their
organizations" with the distinct impression that they were
unruly children who required strict discipline in order to
act responsibly. Maybe that was not the intent, but it sure
felt that way down here on the front lines of teaching. With
each wave of top-down reform has come more and more strings
attached to the practice of teachers. At least, according
to Mr. Kimmelman, with NCLB, we can become the puppeteer.
We can decide where to attach the strings.
As I read this book, the practical viewpoint of the author
reminded me of my high school principal's approach to change,
which seemed to be grounded in the question, "What makes
sense?" Kimmelman suggests that if we will look beyond NCLB's
tendency to intimidate, we can take advantage of the momentum
it has created to make positive, sensible improvements in
In his introduction, Kimmelman declares that his book "is
not intended to be an overview of NCLB but instead offers
a model for building the organizational capacity to comply
with its provisions." I definitely recommend this book
as a way to gain some perspective on the ideas and goals
of NCLB, however you may feel about its implementation.
Principals and teacher leaders will also want to consider
Kimmelman's thoughts about ways to build "organizational
capacity" at the school level to meet some of NCLB's challenges.
If your head will be on the block if you don't make AYP
this year, you can use all the help you can get.