U.S. Chamber Weighs In
Written by Education Week's Sean Cavanagh
This week, one of the leading voices in the U.S. business lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offered some specifics on the kinds of changes to the law its leaders will support, with this underlying message: Hold firm.
Arthur J. Rothkopf, a senior vice president at the Chamber, told reporters at an Aug. 15 press event in Washington (link launches RealMedia audio file) that the organization opposes the idea of establishing "multiple measures'' to judge students' academic progress under a reauthorized NCLB unless those measures are as academically demanding as the current law's accountability requirements.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., recently said that he supports using so-called multiple measures, in addition to reading and math test scores, to judge whether schools are meeting performance targets.
"We do not favor multiple measures,'' Rothkopf said at the event. "We do not want to dilute the existing system.''
The U.S. Chamber could not take specific positions on alternative accountability measures, he added, because federal lawmakers had not put such proposals in writing yet. Even so, Rothkopf said he has heard rumblings about student attendance, as well as some measure of student problem-solving ability, counting as gauges of student progress.
Both ideas are ill-conceived, he said.
Jacque Johnson, an executive director of education and workforce issues for the Chamber, said it would hold off weighing in on using graduation rates as a measure until it sees more specifics.
Rothkopf took a more positive view of "growth models''—pilot programs permitted by the U.S. Department of Education that give states more flexibility in measuring student academic progress. In addition, he said the U.S. Chamber would support changes to the law to ensure that parents and the public are given more information about options for changing schools, and receiving additional tutoring.
With Congress scheduled to resume work next month, Rothkopf voiced anxiety about the calendar—not the legislative timetable but the 2009 presidential-election calendar. As campaign rhetoric gets louder later this year and next, he said, getting reauthorization legislation through both houses of Congress will become more of a longshot.
"They have to understand that if Congress doesn't act now, or in the near future,'' he said, "it's only going to get worse.''