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New Year, New Vision for Public Education and No Child Left Behind

NCLB’s sixth anniversary demands bold, new vision for public schools

WASHINGTON - January 08, 2008 -

Six years after President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law, children are still being treated as standardized test scores. The National Education Association is calling for a bold, new vision for public education—a vision that prepares children with the necessary skills for the real world and moves beyond NCLB’s narrow focus on testing.

"Today, six years after President Bush's failed experiment, America's educators are saying it's time to stop gambling with children's futures," said NEA President Reg Weaver. "As members of Congress reauthorize NCLB, they must move beyond testing and adopt tried and true measures that will improve student learning. The nation's public school students deserve a law that gets it right this time."

NCLB has not improved student achievement and it has not raised standardized test scores. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fourth-grade reading and math test scores and eighth-grade math scores increased at a faster rate before NCLB than after its implementation. Additionally, more than 23,000 schools have failed to make adequate yearly progress in the past school year and about 13,000 are facing punitive sanctions. Studies have shown that 75 to 99 percent of all schools will eventually fail AYP.

NEA advocates replacing the current one-day snapshot approach – based solely on test scores – with multiple measures of student learning, changing the accountability system to reward progress over time, and ensuring that English language learners and special education students are assessed fairly and appropriately.

Weaver also called on President Bush to deliver on his promise, made six years ago, to fully fund NCLB.  His call came a day after a federal appeals court ruled that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is violating the Spending Clause of the Constitution by requiring states and school districts to spend their own funds to comply with NCLB, dealing a major blow to the president’s unpopular law. Bush recently vetoed the FY 2008 education appropriations bill. The president’s failure to invest in the education of the nation’s children translates into a projected funding gap of approximately $14.8 billon for NCLB programs in the next school year, on top of the previous cumulative gap of $56.1 billion.

This overemphasis on standardized testing, combined with a lack of funding, has forced schools to narrow the curriculum. Scarce resources must be diverted from art, music, social studies and physical education to teach to the test.

"What educators are talking about—in addition to fully funding NCLB, closing achievement gaps and reducing school dropouts—are commonsense strategies that will truly help ensure great public schools for every child," Weaver said. "These include, at a minimum, quality early childhood education, improved teacher recruitment and retention, class size reduction, safe and modern facilities, and a real attempt to infuse 21st century skills into our schools."

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Miguel Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823