Sunday, January 14, 2007

NCLB: Time to change

Hon. George Miller,
Committee on Education Jan.11, 2007
U.S. Congress

Dear Congressman Miller,

On behalf of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance I encourage you to work for major amendments to the re authorization of the No Child Left behind law (PL 107-110). This law is not working as it was intended. It is driving good people out of teaching. It is particularly assaulting teachers in low income schools and districts.
Many people supported NCLB in its original draft because of its promises of school achievement. However, like the Bush Administrations failures in New Orleans and Iraq, this law and its administration fails our children. The focus on testing in the law is based upon the flawed notion that schooling can be reduced to a score on a few tests. Frankly the advocates of NCLB are cooking the books and miss representing the evidence.
I am a faculty member in teacher preparation at CSU-Sacramento with over 35 years of experience working in the schools. I and my colleagues have been engaged in urban school reform.
We know only too well that students in our low performing schools have the least prepared teachers and the most out-of field teachers. Unfortunately the current NCLB act has seriously disrupted existing programs and has provided no real evidence of improving our schools.
The current No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires that all students be proficient by 2014. But this goal is inappropriate. A new paper by Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder of the Economic Policy Institute concludes that there is no date by which all (or even nearly all) students in any subgroup can achieve the NCLB requirement of proficiency on "challenging" standards, because no goal can simultaneously be challenging to and achievable by all students across the entire achievement distribution.
The data of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicate school achievement has –at best-been stagnant for the last twenty five years. The achievement gap between mostly middle class and white students and the growing working class Latino and Black student populations, whether measured by test scores, drop out rates, or college attendance narrowed slightly in the early 1980’s, and has begun to widen to pre ESEA levels. No child left behind has not improved the schools.
Under the regimen of standardized testing that has come in the wake of NCLB, our schools have increasingly lost the proper balance between teaching and learning, on the one hand, and the assessment of what students have learned, on the other hand. Education has been more and more crowded out of school days turned over to test preparation, and the curriculum has narrowed significantly with less and less attention paid to the civic functions of public education system.
In Many Children Left Behind, (2004) researcher Linda Darling-Hammond says, "The biggest problem with the NCLB Act is that it mistakes measuring schools for fixing them." She illustrates ways that NCLB has forced many states to lower their standards and how it has perversely encouraged some schools to improve performance by making sure low performing students leave school ( ie.Texas). Rather than lifting the performance of low achieving students, in California NCLB increased the number of dropouts and pushouts.
There are many studies of the problems associated with this legislation. If you want more information please let me know.
We request to be informed of any hearings on the bill to re-authorize NCLB. In particular we request hearings in a format where they can be observed on the web, on CSPAN, and where working professionals can testify on-line. We urge you to oppose re-authorization unless there are significant modifications to the NCLB.
Our department at CSU-Sacramento conducts a free conference for teachers each year. This year the conference is on March 17. The title is “Empowering Socially Responsible Educators”. We would be pleased to provide a forum for you or members of your staff to bring us up to date on efforts to reform NCLB. Or members of your staff may want to attend the conference to learn from teachers their real life experiences with NCLB.
The single most important reform of the legislation would be insist upon consultation with teachers rather than taking the advice of the numerous professional “foundations” and advocacy groups which do not work with teachers. Several of these groups, notably Heritage, the Fordham Foundation, and others exist to proclaim a crisis in public schooling and to promote a private approach to schooling. Their goal has been an ideological gain for privatization, not the improvement of the schools.
We look forward to your response to our request.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell, on behalf of
Sacramento Progressive Alliance

Congressman George Miller is Chair of the Education Committee
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