No Child CW Dashed!

The conventional wisdom about No Child Left Behind is that (a) Democrats hate it now and (b) the law will identify every school in the nation as a failure within a year or two.

Yesterday, Democratic Representative Tom Allen (ME) was preparing to introduce an amendment to the appropriations bill that would have suspended NCLB’s accountability provisions until the law was “fully funded.” Leaving aside what a dreadful political move that is in the current environment, below are excerpts from letter sent by George Miller (CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee and a key NCLB architect, to all his colleagues:

…While I strongly support full funding of NCLB, I am opposed to the Allen amendment because its passage would send the signal that Congress is not serious about NCLB’s reforms and, even worse, it would reduce the impetus for improved achievement. We must continue to improve our schools even as we fight for full funding and fair implementation of the law.

The Allen amendment risks the progress we have already made under NCLB by removing incentives to improve schools. In 2003, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, approximately two-third of fourth graders still are not proficient at reading or math – and the numbers are even worse for students from low-income families and minorities. What is the message of the Allen amendment to these students and their families: schools don’t have to continue efforts to improve performance for all students? Congress doesn’t care if over 60 percent of students perform below grade level?

If the House wants to address the education achievement problems these students are experiencing, the proper way to do so is to provide the resources we promised the schools when we passed the law, not by sending a signal that Congress will not hold schools accountable if children continue to fall behind.

Attached is a letter signed by more than 100 African American and Latino school district superintendents that urges, ‘Don’t turn back the clock on the accountability provisions in Title I.’ They recognize that while NCLB is challenging, the high expectations NCLB sets for every child – including those who are disadvantaged, minority, or living in poverty – are good news for these children, who can no longer be swept underneath overall averages. These superintendents appreciate the leverage that NCLB’s accountability requirements give them for improving their schools.

I urge you to oppose the Allen amendment.

Miller sure doesn’t sound too wobbly. The amendment was withdrawn.

The second piece of CW is about the rampant over-identification of schools. In theory this could be a big problem down the road for technical reasons if the law were not changed, but federal laws are overhauled every few years and NCLB’s drafters were keenly aware of this. In any event, USA Today reported earlier this week that the sky is not falling and Education Week’s Olson confirms this (with charts, too!).

Afterthought: Eduwonk does the naysayers work for them…possible CW revival here!

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