D’s AND F’s FOR ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’
By Chris Levister
Nearly four years into the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) the nation’s urban school districts have shown little benefit from the law which mandated annual reading and math tests for all students in grades 3 through 8. But the most worrisome trend is that most urban schools are making no progress in reducing the achievement gap between white and minority students. That’s the word from eleven large urban school districts including Los Angeles.
Between 2003 and 2005 most 4th and 8th graders in the eleven cities that were studied made o nly negligible progress in math and reading. And most continue to perform well below the national average according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, often referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card.”
The report gives urban cities including Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles D’s and F’s stating urban districts continue to fall very short of the Bush administration’s signature education policy. The report claims student scores remain virtually flat in cities like San Diego, Houston and Boston.
“Our children have been hijacked and shackled by bad policy and bad politics,” says Marian Wright Elderman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. Elderman who has accused the administration of stealing her successful child achievement concept, is both worried and angry.
“This nation has squandered away four years and billions of dollars in education funding. Our children have been tested to death, forced to regurgitate and at the end of the day they haven’t learned to do basic reading and math or much less learned to think. It’s a national shame,” said Elderman.
“Parents in communities where districts are financially strained were promised that this law would close the achievement gaps,” said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, a union of 2.7 million members and often a political adversary of the administration. “Instead, their tax dollars are being used to cover unpaid bills sent to Washington for costly regulations that do not help improve education.”
“I’m very worried.” Shelia Ford, vice chairman of the National Assessment governing board which oversaw the nonpartisan study says everybody should be worried when you consider that big city schools have the highest concentrations of poor and minority children.
“The level of reading and math levels of below basic and basic achievement is just not acceptable. This is not what we want for our children. This is not what we were promised.”
“The report is extremely troubling,” said Utah state Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican who led her state’s fight against NCLB. “The federal government should not be dictating 100 percent of the state’s policy just because they are providing 7 percent of the funding. Do the math.”
When the Assessment Board did the math the trend showed in the last two to three years achievement gaps between Blacks, Latinos and whites has stayed the same. And in cities like Los Angeles the gap is widening.
That’s really bad news for the Bush administration because during that period of time the White House insisted that under NCLB the gap is closing.
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told a conference for conservative lawmakers that the law is “good policy and good politics. She agreed the latest assessment is disappointing but argues urban school systems need to work harder. “We had hoped for more progress however, progress doesn’t happen overnight. This is not a mandate it is a partnership with states to close the achievement gap, hold schools accountable and ensure all students are reading and doing math at grade-level by 2014. American’s still see NCLB as a benefit, not an issue,” she said.
Elderman says Spellings and the Bush administration need to be more forthcoming about the impact that NCLB is having especially o n inner city minority students. “This report clearly states NCLB is not meeting the needs of our young people. This law has failed our youth and our expectation as a nation.”
The question that we all need to ask now says Elderman, is are kids really doing better today than they were without the law?
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