No Child Held Back is a consortium of parents, teachers, school administrators, learning experts, citizens, business leaders, education publishers, and technology providers who are dedicated to transforming education. Their vision is the creation of an effective, flexible, student-centered education system that helps all students achieve their full academic and personal potential. The group was founded by NaMaYa Inc., a leading online learning platform as a service provider. Yovel Badash, founder of NaMaYa, was a technology leader in several tech companies and for the past four years his focus has been almost exclusively on the challenges facing the education market. After reading this in-depth interview with Yovel about their goals, purposes and why this approach is vital for every educator to understand, learn more and join the conversation at www.NoChildHeldBack.com.
Victor: Why is it called No Child Held Back?
Yovel: It is my personal belief that no children anywhere in the world should be held back from reaching their full potential. We should not accept the fact that in the 21st century—with all the technology and resources available—that most children are actually held back from achieving their true potential. NCHB is our vision. It is the reason we are in business.
The idea of No Child Held Back underscores the difference between our vision of student-centered education and optimal personal achievement for all children and the punitive, testing-focused No Child Left Behind legislation designed to limit the number of failing students. The growing, broad-based criticism of this law and its effects on education underscore the need for significant education reform in the US.
We believe that every child wants to learn and use their natural curiosity to learn new things. The main issue is that the education systems around the world are designed in a very specific way that is not aligned with the NCHB approach. The problem is not teachers or schools—it is the approach. We hope to change that.
Victor: Can you elaborate on some of the perspectives in this approach?
Yovel: Well, it is hard to encapsulate so many items in one short summary. The main perspective is that transforming the goal of the education system from uniformity to no child held back fundamentally changes everything else, too. Every part of the system is affected: the role of the teacher, the purpose of tests, the connection between schools and communities, the way we teach—and even what we teach.
We believe that you can only reach true academic and overall excellence when you focus on ensuring that every child reaches his or her maximum potential—when you don’t hold any child back. There is a lot of data out there. It’s time for new technologies and teaching approaches to come to the forefront and make a difference.
We are not interested in debating esoteric theories or future innovations. We are taking a very pragmatic approach in order to effect real-world change today. We are developing a very detailed step-by-step technology adoption/development approach to enable schools and districts to adopt the No Child Held Back framework now—in time to help the current generation of students.
Visit our website and take a look at our white paper at www.NoChildHeldBack.com for a more complete treatment of these perspectives.
In addition, we have created a short online course titled: No Child Held Back: Putting a New Face on 21st Century Reform. This course is offered free-of-charge and we would like to encourage those interested in education at all levels to register and enroll in this course taking the first step to realizing a world where no child is held back.
Victor: What is new and unique about this new approach?
Yovel: The focus changes completely. No Child Held Back is not about assessing cohorts of children as a single entity based on age. It is about evaluating each child individually. Where does he excel? What drives her to succeed? Then, a skilled teacher can adjust the yearly curriculum and assess progress specifically for each student. Students can speed through the units they understand easily, spend a little more time on the ones that challenge them.
Each student is a unique individual. They all have unique strengths, interests and preferred learning modalities. Each body of knowledge could be taught in many different ways. No Child Held Back is designed to accommodate these individual variations and use them to help all students learn more and at a faster overall pace than traditional approaches that treat everyone the same way and offer only one way to master a body of knowledge.
The novelty of the NCHB approach is that we want to turn that around. And I honestly think we can because all of the relevant technology and research exists. Now it is a question of creating the right momentum and environment to get this reform process started.
Victor: How does this compare to other education reform initiatives out there?
Yovel: There are many initiatives around the country—and the world, for that matter—that are making a difference. We would rather not compare the different education reforms out there, but actually unite them. Under one theme and one conversation, we can all benefit from productive education reform initiatives. Our approach is that we should not try to do it one by one, but join forces as a group. We welcome anyone to join our steering committee or just be an active member of our community. We hope that through the NCHB consortium, more of what works will surface and get implemented.
It is clear that there is no single approach or technology or company that can fit the needs of every school in every country around the world. An open, flexible and adaptive approach is key because the world is evolving fast and what’s true today won’t be true tomorrow. Just a few years ago—no one imagined the iPad or the smart-phone revolution. As we implement new education practices, new studies and feedback about the new programs will guide us to create future innovations that no one can foresee now.
Victor: What is the end goal of this concept?
Yovel: The true end goal is to help create a world where every child everywhere in the world can get the best education available anywhere. We can create a world where it really does not matter where you were born or who were your parents—only your given and developed talents and knowledge would limit you from reaching your dreams.
In the short term, we would like to ignite a conversation around the world that includes everyone who cares about education and its future. We are creating a platform for education reform conversation and knowledge that drives change one school, teacher and student at a time.
As I mentioned, we developed an introductory course and are actively working on a comprehensive education reform course that would enable anyone around the world to execute on their reform approach and be a positive force within their local environment.
We have the ideas, the execution plan and the passion to make this happen. Now all we need is a few hundred other people, crazy like us, to help get this to the next level.
Victor: What can people do if they want to get involved?
Yovel: That really depends on who they are. Teachers and other educators who want to help drive reform at their school can find resources to help on NoChildHeldBack.com. Parents and students can join to help influence our approach and short term priorities. Businesses and other individuals can use our platform to drive change and share their perspectives on the reforms needed in education. Technology providers can join our consortium and bring their success stories to the front of the stage.
In general, everyone who cares about education can join the movement. Contact us at NoChildHeldBack.com and we will guide you to the right place
Victor: Who is your target market with this new framework?
Yovel: Initially, we would like to focus on educators and education reform leaders. We would like to support the grass-roots movement that is growing and moving toward these kinds of reforms. It would be ideal if we could get some government education leaders to participate and help us share this approach within their local areas.
Eventually, we would like to include anyone who thinks the education system could/should improve and want to take action to do something about it. Action is the key word. The education technology and reform market has far too much talk and theories and far too little action.
We want to understand that this is not a short journey. There are no quick fixes or Band-aids to solve the complex problems we face. The journey is worth the effort because the future of our children depends on the actions we take today.
Victor: What is the feedback you are already getting from the market?
It seems like the education reform conversation needs a fresh, new approach. The market seems to be tired of rehashing the same old ideas. Most of the people who have read our white paper/manifesto tell us that it addresses most of the major elements they struggle with and that our approach has the most promise of actually changing something.
But we don’t pretend to know everything. It is really important to include multiple viewpoints—even criticisms—in the debate if we are collectively to find real, long-lasting solutions to our complex education problems. The bottom line is simple: how can we find solutions to ensure no child will be held back?
Whether it’s legislation, technology development and adoption, or research and methodologies—we need to get going and start thinking in new ways. We need to inspire and excite teachers, educators, students and parents. We need to get the local populations and business community involved with our schools. There are so many amazing opportunities for improvement that we simply cannot ignore what these changes would mean for our future—locally and globally.
Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” We might not be able to stop evil, but we can certainly work together to stamp out ignorance and intellectual mediocrity.
Victor: What are your plans for the future around this?
Yovel: We believe that with the right ecosystem of partners and committed people joining forces in schools, districts and communities around the country, we could revolutionize the education system in the United States and allow it to take a leadership role in global education. But we have to start somewhere so our short-term goal is to raise awareness and engage as many people as possible in a national conversation about student-centered learning and education transformation.
We have a pretty clear plan for making this happen, but are maintaining the flexibility to adjust accordingly as other companies and organizations join the consortium. I urge everyone who believes that our education system needs reform to join the conversation. Indifference and cynicism are the movement’s greatest enemies. Transforming No Child Held Back from a vision to reality will require the dedication, determination and perspiration of many thousands of teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders and citizens throughout the country.
Victor: Anything else you would like to point out?
1) The No Child Held Back approach is the right overarching approach for education reform. It has the right elements and the potential to revolutionize our education system to help students at every level truly achieve education excellence.
2) Now is the time! We already have what we need to make this vision a reality. It is time to stop debating about reform and start to make this happen. I think we would be surprised as to how much progress we can make if we just allow ourselves to be inspired and dream.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: [email protected]