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Letter from Representative Albert Wynn to George Miller

March 03, 2008

Dear Chairman Miller:


I would like to express my strong concerns regarding the direction we appear to be heading in reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). We have an historic opportunity with this reauthorization to create a new vision for our nation's public schools -- one that addresses the inequities and the intolerable gaps that continue to exist and that gives every child the opportunity to soar. Unfortunately, I do not see this vision in the draft currently under discussion. If the bill ultimately presented to the House does not reflect significant changes, including those addressed below, I will have difficulty supporting its passage.

First, I am deeply concerned that the draft continues to rely so heavily on measuring schools based on standardized test results. We have ample evidence regarding the flaws and limitations of standardized tests that measure only rote memorization, not the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. And, we have all heard the outcry from parents and teachers in our districts about the negative impact of such a heavy focus on testing -- including extraordinary pressure placed on students and the loss of important instruction in music, art, and other elements of a well-rounded education. Simply put, we cannot get a true picture of student and school achievement without looking at the range of factors that go into making a successful school. 

I am also concerned that the draft does not address class size. It is clear that reducing class sizes will have a positive effect on student learning. We should be taking the initiative in this reauthorization to restore the highly effective class size reduction program eliminated by the previous Congress and the current administration. 

In addition, I believe we need to make significant changes to provisions in the draft addressing dropout prevention.  We are facing a dropout crisis in this country, particularly among minority and low-income populations. This crisis is a national shame and, if we do not address it head-on, we will be sacrificing the futures of millions of children as well as the future strength of our nation. We must make sure that resources to help students stay in and succeed in school are targeted based on need to those students and schools at the greatest risk. 

Finally, I am concerned about provisions in the draft that would tie teacher pay to student test scores. First, I strongly believe that, in order to improve overall student performance, we need the best teachers where the student performance is the worst. This insures that the potential for student improvement at underperforming schools is the greatest. By tying teacher pay to test scores, a disincentive would be created for quality teachers to go to underperforming schools where the help is most needed. Teachers who were most qualified would be forced to take lower pay because they taught at lower performing schools. Second, by connecting pay to test scores, schools will be encouraged to manipulate test scores in order to retain teachers with promises of better pay. 

I urge you to take the time necessary to do this reauthorization right. Current law is clearly flawed. However, I fear that the path we are heading down will only exacerbate these flaws rather than correct them. I believe we owe it to children, parents, teachers, and the nation as a whole to put forward a strong vision for public education in the 21st century. 

I thank you for your careful consideration in this regard. 

Sincerely,


Albert R. Wynn
Member of Congress

cc:  Members, Congressional Black Caucus