SCRAP ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’!
Would that Congress had consulted Linda Darling-Hammond, Pedro Noguera, Velma Cobb and Deborah Meier when drafting No Child Left Behind [“Evaluating ‘No Child Left Behind,'” May 21]. They lay out a powerful case for why NCLB needs fundamental reform if it is to help us “pay off the educational debt to disadvantaged students that has accrued over centuries of unequal access to quality education.”
Darling-Hammond cites the work of the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) in building a consensus for a new NCLB that would shift the law’s emphasis “from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement.” The Joint Statement on NCLB has been signed by 121 education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic organizations, a constituency of more than 50 million people. These voices are beginning to be heard, but much more must be done.
Congressional committees are writing legislation. Now is the time to act. Contact your senators and Representative today. Tell them NCLB should not be reauthorized until its serious flaws are fixed. Ask them to contact the Education Committee and press for adoption of the FEA’s legislative recommendations.
Rather than just test and punish, the new federal law proposed by FEA would improve schools through high-quality professional development for teachers and administrators; involve parents more deeply in school improvement; enable families to participate better in their children’s education; continue to assess and report student learning but based on multiple measures, not just test scores. Expectations for achievement would be realistic, based on rates of improvement actually achieved by schools. Targeted assistance would replace sanctions (see www.edaccountability.org).
Chair, Forum on Educational Accountability
New York City
I’ve had a lot of contact with NCLB, a flawed program but, on balance, well worth having. Contrary to the position taken by the Nation forum, NCLB has had a beneficial effect on education. It has surfaced widespread performance failures in reading and math, and required educators to get better results. Most objections raised are just pie-in-the-sky. Of course we’d do a better job if we eliminated poverty, secured trained dedicated teachers, mobilized parents and raised the education budget. Other objections are just wrong. Reliance on multiple-choice questions is not an error but the best way to measure performance quickly. Teaching to the test is not wrong. The test appropriately requires students to read and analyze long selections and to solve math problems. A lot of practice is essential. It’s true we’ve reduced time spent in music and art, but it was because we wisely doubled time spent in math and reading.