Election 2008

'No Child' Debate Resurfaces on Campaign Trail

July 06, 2007 04:12 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Democratic presidential candidates speaking to the nation's largest teachers’ union call for an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, bringing renewed attention to the law as Congress's reauthorization deadline approaches.

30-Second Summary

The democratic presidential candidates spoke as one in calling for major changes to the No Child Left Behind Act, at the National Education Association's annual convention,

The NCLB Act came into law in 2002, doubling federal education funding. However, it sanctions that extra money only for those schools that pass annual standardized tests designed to assess classroom, school and state performance.

The goal of the NCLB Act is to "narrow achievement gaps" between disadvantaged students and their more privileged counterparts. Whether it succeeds has been a matter for debate.

Critics have made three claims: the emphasis on standardized testing lowers the quality and breadth of education; the national accountability benchmarks are unrealistic; and increased federal interferences impinge on states' rights.

As Congress's September 30 reauthorization deadline approaches, there is a broad bipartisan consensus that the public school system needs improvement. The United States has fallen out of the top 20 countries in math and science scores, and the top 10 in reading scores.

Headline Links:Democrats denounce NCLB at NEA conference and the full text of NCLB

All the Democratic candidates voted for No Child Left Behind, but they unanimously denounced it when speaking at the National Education Association conference on July 2, 2007. NEA endorsement means a lot to a presidential candidate. The association has supported only Democratic candidates in the past, and about 85 percent of its 3.2 million members vote for the union's recommended candidate.

Reports on the NCLB Act

In a report titled "Answering the Question That Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased since No Child Left Behind?" researchers at the Center on Education Policy write that more states have seen their reading and math test scores rise than fall since the NCLB Act. However, the report also notes that state test scores were more encouraging than were results on the National Assessment of Education Performance (NAEP).

Background: How NCLB changed U.S. education

Official Revision Proposals

The White House, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education headed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, released a proposal in January 2007 outlining what they want to see changed in the NCLB Act. The report suggested private school voucher programs for poor students, school accountability for science scores, state report cards showing how students do on state tests compared to the national test, and a number of other recommendations.
The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) convened a nine-member panel to determine which aspects of the assessment and accountability provisions of the NCLB Act need improvement. The panel's goal was to provide lawmakers with guiding principles and recommendations as they prepare to reauthorize the law. According to a news story on the NEA Web site, the resultant report––titled "Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning"––"calls for replacing the one-shot tests used to impose sanctions under the law with multiple measures that better support high-quality teaching and increased student achievement."
The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) supports many aspects of the NCLB Act, especially those that expand parental involvement in the classroom. However, the group is also concerned with how heavily the law relies on standardized testing as the federal government's principal measure of school performance.
In February 2007, the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left Behind released a report detailing 75 recommendations for improving the law before its reauthorization. Among them was a controversial suggestion calling for annual teacher evaluations. The evaluations would be based on progress in test scores and colleague reviews. If a teacher failed to improve performance after seven years, than he/she would be prevented from teaching in a school receiving federal aid. Critics of the proposed change said it would encourage teachers to focus too much on the tests.

Historical Context: The history of NCLB

Opinions: Does NLCB behind work?

Want to Keep It
Want to Keep It With Revisions
Very Critical

Reference Material: NCLB sample tests, state rankings, and America's international ranking


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