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Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020

Achieving a new balance in the federal role to transform America's public schools

No Child Left Behind Act: Unbalanced and Unprecedented Federal Role in Education
NCLB marked a drastic shift away from earlier interpretations of the federal role in education. The law established top-down, command-and-control, federally prescriptive testing and accountability mandates with rigid, unrealistic timelines for state and school compliance. Six years of NCLB have shown a fundamentally flawed and poorly implemented law. NCLB treats children as standardized test scores and ushered in a new unfortunate era of testing, labeling and punishing schools. Among its flaws:

  • NCLB fails to improve student preparedness for rigorous postsecondary studies or employment because of its narrow emphasis on low-level basic skills.
  • It has narrowed the educational experience of students by reducing access to a rich, inspiring and comprehensive educational curriculum.
  • It turned the purpose of testing on its head, changing it from a useful instructional tool for teachers to determine how to support students to a punitive policy without resources.
  • The rigid definition of "adequate yearly progress" distorts the process of identifying and targeting resources to help struggling schools.
  • Its one-size-fits-all sanctions and punishments have failed to significantly close achievement gaps.

The federal government demanded outcomes from schools without providing the inputs, like sufficient funding, creating a $71 billion gap between promised and actual funding.

Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020: A Renewed Commitment and Balance in Education
The National Education Association-on behalf of its 3.2 million members-seeks a balance in education policy that would transform public schools into high-quality learning centers by sharing responsibility with local, district and state governments. Schools, districts and states-not the federal government-are the primary engines of public school transformation. Most of the leadership and responsibility for education appropriately rests at the state and local school district levels. Constitutionally, education is reserved to the states, and the majority of education funding is provided at the state level.

NEA believes the federal government has a vital role to play in advancing the quality of America's public schools. As such, we urge the federal government to embrace its role as a supporter-not a manager-of state and district responsibilities by:

  • Strengthening enforcement of civil rights laws to promote access and opportunity
  • Guaranteeing that the federal government delivers the funding required to comply with past congressional actions and current federal mandates
  • Building public support for the goal of great public schools for every student by the year 2020.

NEA is proposing a new policy framework for the federal government, in partnership with local, district and state partners, to transform public schools by 2020. This framework, will:

  1. Revive and support the profession of teaching as a desired and complex field of study and practice

  2. Take responsibility once and for all for the protection of students by putting a federal guarantee on the sustained funding of Title I and IDEA

  3. Protect and achieve students' equal access to the services and supports they need to succeed

  4. Support state-based public school transformation through authentic accountability that is publicly transparent

  5. Establish high-quality educational research and development as essential to educational improvement

  6. Support innovation and best practices to accelerate state-based improvement efforts and improve student learning.