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Letter to Sam Graves supporting the NCLB Recess until Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6239)

June 18, 2008

Dear Representative Graves:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to offer our support for the NCLB Recess until Reauthorization Act (HR 6239), which would suspend imposition of any new sanctions for failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act and, instead, allow schools to focus on improving student achievement. We thank you for your leadership in introducing this bill - one that will make a real difference for public school students in Missouri and across the nation - as well as your ongoing efforts in support of public education.

H.R. 6239 would prevent any new or additional sanctions from being imposed on schools and school districts under the No Child Left Behind law for one year or until the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized, whichever comes first. It would not remove sanctions from schools or school districts currently subject to them.

The current sanction system imposes escalating sanctions in a rapid succession, with little time to evaluate their impact on educational quality. In imposing a moratorium on new sanctions, your bill recognizes their detrimental impact on the very students the law was intended to help. In fact, many students in high-poverty schools subject to escalating sanctions have actually seen a reduction in curriculum in favor of "teaching to the test." In addition, there is little evidence that the NCLB mandated sanctions have helped raise student achievement or close achievement gaps.

Six and a half years after enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, 18 states still do not have final approval for their system of standards and assessments, raising serious questions about the validity of sanctions imposed since they are based on the results of those assessments. The Department of Education has indicated it is unlikely to give any additional states full approval by the end of the current school year. Therefore, a pause in designating more schools for improvement, as called for under your legislation, is essential to preventing the continued possible misidentification of schools.

We believe your legislation offers a common-sense approach to slowing down the sanction process until the entire system can be reevaluated through the reauthorization process. If the bill moves forward we have some technical suggestions to the language to clarify that schools and districts already identified will still be subject to the appropriate requirements of the law. We thank you again for your leadership on these important issues and look forward to continuing to work with you in support of great public schools for every child.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy