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Dem Groups Concerned About Miller NCLB Bill

Not everyone's so sure they're going to like what House education committee chairman George Miller comes up with, according to this letter sent last week from left-leaning progressives who are concerned about Miller watering down the law too much.

What a contrast with the last time around, when Miller and the Ed Trust and others worked seamlessly on NCLB and rarely if ever had to resort to public letter-writing like this.

The letter:

July 13, 2007

Dear Chairman Miller and Ranking Member McKeon:

We are concerned about the considerable pressure being placed on Congress to alter the Title I accountability systems by adding more ways of measuring school success. These “multiple measures,” it is argued, will provide parents and communities with a more robust portrait of what is going on in their schools.

We agree that the reporting of additional school-level information can be valuable, particularly information about course-taking and college-going rates for high school students. But there is a big difference between reporting this information to parents and the public and incorporating it into calculations of “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). Thus, we urge extreme caution with this approach. The inclusion of additional measures in the law’s AYP requirement has the potential to:

* Dilute Title I’s clear focus on the literacy and mathematics skills that students need to become productive citizens;
* Add complexity and confusion to state accountability systems by vastly increasing the number of hurdles a school must clear; and
* Overwhelm state data systems, which can hardly keep up with the demands of the current law.

In our experience, institutions that are held accountable for too many things are, in the end, accountable for nothing. Worse still, a system that papers over poor reading and math performance with “extra credit indicators” will deny struggling schools the additional attention, technical assistance and financial resources that they need to improve.

Our goal in this reauthorization should not be to create an accountability system that masks achievement shortfalls. Instead, we must face these problems head-on and provide struggling schools—and the students who attend them—with the support they need to improve. A school’s record on additional measures may help determine the kind of help it needs, but not whether it needs help. That determination, fundamentally, must be about student learning.

We therefore urge you to provide for additional information in school-level report cards, but to reject the pressure to include such measures in the Title I accountability system if they would mask low achievement and deprive students and schools of resources and assistance that they genuinely need.

Respectfully,

The Center for American Progress
The Citizens’ Commission for Civil Rights
The Education Trust
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The National Council of La Raza

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