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Civil Rights & Business Groups Join Together To Fight For NCLB


You may or may not think it's significant that there's another new NCLB-related organization. Hard to keep up with how many there are these days. But this one includes a pretty diverse set of players including the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, La Raza, NCEA, the Citizens' Commission, and the Ed Trust. And it's pretty staunchly in favor of keeping, if not strengthening, NCLB.

Of course, other folks who might help get something done -- CAP, Fordham, New America, CEP, etc. -- aren't signed on, either because they officially "don't do" advocacy or because they think it'd be more fun and/or better for kids if NCLB didn't get strengthened along the lines it was originally enacted. For them, it's all about bringing on the national standards, the increasingly Byzantine growth model ideas, the new programs, the carve-outs and the exceptions. Just getting NCLB done better doesn't really help them any. It's not their thing.

UPDATE: To give you a sense of where the dividing lines are, note that CAP (the Center on American Progress) signed onto last week's warning letter to the House, which I posted about earlier this week, but didn't sign onto this group.

NCLB Works! – New Coalition Launches Breakthrough Campaign

Diverse organizations come together to support fundamental principles that must guide reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act

Washington, DC – A coalition of business, education, community and civil rights groups today launched a campaign – NCLB Works! – and released a statement of eight principles that all of the groups believe must guide the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) Act this year. The campaign will first target the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions which are now drafting changes to the legislation.

The coalition believes that NCLB has been instrumental in focusing the nation on improving academic achievement for all students and that the results are encouraging. Coalition members include Business Coalition for Student Achievement, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, The Education Trust, The LINKS, Inc., National Center for Educational Accountability and National Council of La Raza. Though each of the coalition members has more detailed recommendations for NCLB’s reauthorization, they have come together in support of these eight key points. The coalition’s statement follows and additional information on the NCLB Works! Campaign can be found at www.nclbworks.org.

“The fact that diverse organizations have come together with a common bottom line for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act is a testament to the law’s importance to our country,” said Susan Traiman, Director of Education and Workforce Policy for the Business Roundtable.

“The business community is proud to join with education and civil rights leaders to highlight how the No Child Left Behind Act has worked and identify ways to strengthen it to prepare students for an increasingly competitive workplace,” said Jacque Johnson, Executive Director for the Education & Workforce Development Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“NCLB sets high expectations for all groups of students and must continue to insist that ‘all’ really means all. We must not backtrack on helping English Language Learners graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and work,” said Raul Gonzalez, Senior Legislative Director at the National Council of La Raza.

“We are seeing the positive impact under NCLB of using student achievement data to identify effective practices and to diagnose where students need help to achieve proficiency in reading and math,” said Tom Lindsley, Director of National Center for Educational Accountability’s Washington Office. “We are finding evidence that high expectations combined with best practices will lead to higher student achievement among the most challenging student populations.”

“NCLB must continue to focus on ensuring that all students are taught by qualified and effective teachers and on empowering parents to help their children succeed in school – whether it’s data comparing schools, the opportunity to transfer to higher performing public schools or a tutor to provide academic assistance,” said Dianne Piché, Executive Director of Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights.

“There is a danger that after just five years of clearly linking federal resources with accountability for the achievement of all groups of students, Congress will create a less transparent and more complex accountability system that clouds NCLB’s focus on all groups of students being able to read and do math at grade level. This coalition is determined to make sure that we do not turn back the clock,” added Amy Wilkins, Vice President for Government Affairs and Communications for The Education Trust.

For more information about NCLB Works!, please visit www.nclbworks.org.


NCLB Works! Statement of Support

A broad coalition of business, education, community and civil rights groups working in support of efforts to strengthen and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, share the common belief that this law has been instrumental in focusing our nation on improving academic achievement for all students.

As Congress begins consideration to renew this historic law, we urge Members to maintain and strengthen the fundamental principles and goals of NCLB, specifically:

1. EXPECTATIONS. All students have the ability to learn and to reach grade-level proficiency in core academic subjects.
2. STATE STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENTS. States must retain their flexibility to develop standards in math, reading and science and to create and use statewide annual assessments to measure the extent to which students are proficient in these subjects.
3. HIGH SCHOOLS. States should be given incentives to set more rigorous standards – particularly at the middle and high school levels – to ensure that high school graduates have the skills necessary to continue their education or move into today's competitive workforce. Schools and school districts should be held accountable for improving high school graduation rates.
4. ACCOUNTABILITY. Schools and school districts must be held accountable for helping all students to reach proficiency in math and reading by a specific date. The original goal of NCLB – 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, based on current standards, by 2014 – should remain. While states can collect information on additional measures, such measures must not undermine the existing accountability system.
5. ACHIEVEMENT GAP. Schools and school districts must be held accountable for raising math and reading achievement for all groups of students – major ethnic and racial groups, students with disabilities, limited English proficient and economically disadvantaged students. Schools and school districts must also be held accountable for reducing academic achievement gaps between groups.
6. RESOURCES AND RESTRUCTURING. Schools unable to reach annual student proficiency targets must be provided with additional support and resources. Schools persistently unable to improve must be dramatically restructured.
7. PARENT OPTIONS. Parents with students in struggling schools must not be forced to wait years for improvement, but instead be given the opportunity to transfer their children to higher -performing public schools or to select a tutor to provide additional academic assistance for their children.
8. TEACHERS. Teachers should have the skills, knowledge and support necessary to help all students reach proficiency. Minority and economically disadvantaged students should not be taught more frequently than other students by novice and under-qualified teachers.


NCLB works for everyone? Really? Have you been in classrooms for the last five years? Have you watched students and teachers struggle with NCLB rules and regulations that make no sense what-so-ever: rules and regulations that dishearten special education students, that undermine good teaching practices and put pabulum in front of gifted students? NCLB works for the bottom quartile of students. Unfortunately is leaves the rest dismayed.

thanks for your comment, cathy --
do you think that teachers focus too much on the bottom kids because of NCLB, and what could be done to ease that?

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New NCLB coalitions? It is Washington, afterall, where signing on to letters with and for strange bedfellows is S.O.P. In this case, though, it is so helpful that several of the members of this coalition actually represents real people in real states. Business folks locally, and active civil rights leaders outside of Washington really do want schools held accountable for what they say and do. We can only hope that Congressional leaders on the left and right recognize the wisdom in their words and have the courage to ignore the pleas of the unions, other vested interests and even a few presidential candidates who are trying to cozy up to the status quo.

Cathy, your point is very interesting. It seems like there is some evidence to suggest that NCLB is doing much more to help students at the bottom than those in the middle or at the top. That would make sense given the laws big focus on achievement gaps between have's and have nots and on minimum levels of proficiency.

If this is the case do we approve of NCLB overall or not? It seems like one of those questions like whether it would be better to have a universal health care system that was less efficient, but where everyone was covered or the current system where some have very good care, but those at the bottom are in terrible shape.

I'm curious what your thoughts are on this kind of tradeoff and whether there is any way to get the goods of a law like NCLB (help those at the bottom) without simultaneously getting the bads (interfere with or impede those in the middle to top)?

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