Govs call for more control over NCLB

Renewal of the oft-criticized No Child Left Behind federal law is supported by the nation’s governors, but they want far more authority to carry out its mandates.
That’s the crux of recommendations the National Governors Association (NGA) sent to Congress Thursday as that body considers what the second iteration of the five-year-old law should look like.

“The governors’ voices when No Child Left Behind was initially written were not present,” said Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), co-chair of the NGA’s lobbying effort, in a conference call Thursday. But now “the states believe that it’s very important that the governors have a voice on this because we truly have a unique view about how this piece of legislation can be implemented.”

The governors aren’t alone. Their recommendations were jointly released with two other state groups: the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Boards of Education. Read entire Story.

One of the key requirements of the landmark federal education law No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is that ALL students tested in reading and math will reach grade level by 2014. I will repeat, “ALL students.” It follows that if even one student has a bad day on testing day, according to NCLB, we have failed. Picture a heartbroken middle school child whose pet dog of twelve years had to be humanely euthanized the day before. Will he score well on the test? Or a troubled elementary school student whose parents are divorcing. Then there’s the normal adolescent break ups and crisis. Wearing the wrong outfit or hair style to school on test day can interfere with performance. And we haven’t begun to discuss the exceptional child whose learning disability or attention deficit disorder will keep them from scoring on grade level.

Critics of NCLB, including some teachers unions and many testing experts, view the law as a forced march toward an impossible education nirvana. They are lobbying Congress to reduce the 100 percent target and delay the 2014 deadline. They are also pushing for the elimination of sanctions that school systems face for failing to make yearly progress toward the goal.
NCLB expires in 2007, and to continue, must be reauthorized by Congress. Even when the law was enacted five years ago, almost no one believed that standard was realistic. But now, as Congress begins to debate renewing the law, lawmakers and education officials are confronting the reality of the approaching deadline.

“There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percent target,” said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. “But because the title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid to change this completely unrealistic standard. They don’t want to be accused of leaving some children behind.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. education secretary and supporter of the law, said Americans don’t want politicians to lower standards. “Are we going to rewrite the Declaration of Independence and say only 85 percent of men are created equal?” Alexander asked. “Most of our politics in America is about the disappointment of not meeting the high goals we set for ourselves.”

Foes and supporters alike praise the law for drawing attention to student achievement gaps. The law requires testing for all students in reading and math from grades 3 through 8, and science starting this school year, and once more in high school; it also requires reporting of scores for groups of students including racial and ethnic minorities, those from low-income families, those with limited English skills and those with disabilities who receive special education.

Why do the governor’s want a voice? To answer that, we have to answer another question: Who establishes the academic standards for all students, and then tests them to see how well they’re learning the standards? Why, the states do. No wonder the governors want to be heard.

If NCLB is renewed, I’ll have instant job security. As a science researcher at a company that develops and scores educational tests, NCLB will ensure that I have enough work to keep me busy indefinitely. Perhaps the jobs created from developing state reading, math and science tests will boost the economy.

Sidebar:
The parodies below take a humorous look at NCLB, but in doing so bring forward the impossible task outlined by the much criticized law.

No Dentist Left Behind
John Taylor, retired superintendent of schools in Lancaster, S.C., offers this history of the above essay which he wrote while leading that district:

The parody was originally titled ‘Absolutely the Best Dentists.’ It was written and sent to every newspaper and legislator in South Carolina a number of years ago in an attempt to point out the absurdities inherent in South Carolina’s then new accountability act which was focused on ‘absolute’ performance and threatened retention for every child who couldn’t meet very challenging grade level standards. (Not to mention severe penalties for ‘poorly performing’ schools, teachers ands administrators.) Since then it has traveled widely to the point that I have not been able to keep up with the uses; but I know it has appeared in teacher association publications in at least three Canadian Provinces and in Australia, as well as dozens in the USA. The No Child Left Behind Act seems to have given the story a new life.

Football Version

Mis-Education President:

Information from this blog comes from:
Govs call for more control over NCLB

High-profile report calls for new NCLB

‘No Child’ Target Is Called Out of Reach

Pros & Cons of the No Child Left Behind Act

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