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Education Leaders Give No Child Left Behind Act Grade Of "A", But Cite Implementation Problems

Ohanian Comment: Here they are: the Business Roundtable buddies who figure out how to rule the world.

They could have said: The operation was a success but the patient died.

The transcript of these get-together is worth reading (URL given below). For starters, Kati Haycock of Education Trust, calls New York Times analysis of Houston data a hatchet job, saying, "ONe of the things I get really concerned about is every time we have an urban school system or even an urban school that starts moving ahead of the others, people descend on that district to try to disprove its success. The Truth of the matter is, especially in this era of accountability, there is so much data available on every school system that you can make anybody look bad, and that's exactly what The New York Times did today."

She neglected to add that making public schools look bad is what the Business Roundtable does every day.

I repeat: The transcript is worth reading--unless you already have high blood pressure.

Release Date: 12/03/2003

Washington, DC

- Top political, policy, and education leaders gave the No Child Left Behind Act an average grade of "A" today, hailing it as an historic and major step forward for American education, but cautioning that the law faces a number of challenges as states and schools implement it.

The leaders came together at a forum sponsored by the Business Roundtable entitled, "Is No Child Left Behind Working? A Progress Report." It was the Roundtable's second annual forum examining the law.

Joseph M. Tucci, President and CEO of EMC Corporation and Chairman of the Roundtable's Education and the Workforce Task Force, hosted the event. In his prepared remarks, Tucci said the Roundtable believes that "No Child Left Behind has put American education on the right track. Success won't happen overnight, but we are encouraged by the progress we are seeing. Our message to Congress and America is clear: Let's keep our eyes on the prize - a quality education for all."

Richard Whitmire, editorial writer for USA Today, moderated the panel discussion. Panelists included Rep. John Boehner, Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee; Sandra Feldman, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Kati Haycock, Director of the Education Trust; Lisa Graham Keegan, Chief Executive Officer of the Education Leaders Council; Sandy Kress, former Senior Advisor to President Bush and now an education advisor to the Roundtable; and Andrew Rotherham, Director of the 21st Century Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Lauding the Act's reforms and goals, Boehner, Haycock, Keegan, and Kress gave it a grade of "A," with Feldman giving it an "A-minus." When it came to how the law was being implemented, Kress gave it a "B," Keegan and Haycock gave it a "C," Feldman a "C-minus," and Boehner and Rotherham gave it an "Incomplete." However, Feldman said that "there's nothing here that can't be fixed if good will prevails," and Rotherham said, "there is no going back."

Boehner noted that some of the implementation problems have been caused by "the confusion that exists in virtually every state about what the real facts of the law are. A lot needs to be done to help teachers, parents, administrators, and others at the local level to really understand" the law.

Keegan called the law "a great statement of national aspirations" and said it represented the "best practices and reforms that needed to be laid down in law." While Keegan's implementation grade was "C," she said the letter also stands for "catalyst," because "without question this law has created the pressure that needs to be in place" for important academic improvement to occur. Noting that the law has the support of people from "all over the political spectrum," she said, "You will be hard pressed to find people who will say this is not the right thing to be trying to do. That's amazing."

Haycock said the law deserved an "A" because of its strong focus on helping low-income, minority, and disabled children. "There isn't a community in the country that isn't now aware of the need to do something differently" to help these children. However, "there are a lot of very tough and thorny issues" including "getting qualified teachers for every child. Clearly we haven't provided enough assistance to states and local school districts on that issue, and we need to work a lot harder on it."

Rotherham said there are legitimate issues concerning the law's implementation - "it's very complicated" - but also warned about other roadblocks, including "evasion and tokenism" on the part of schools. "We're really going to have to look at not just what people say they're doing, but what they are actually doing," he said. "I don't think any of that will be really clear for several more years."

Feldman said she has gone from "optimism to extreme worry" about the law. She said, "I want to see the law succeed," but is concerned about the way the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability system is being implemented. "I think the disaggregated data as a tool should be used to help the children most in need, but instead what we have is huge numbers of schools on 'needs improvement' lists and less of a focus on the kids who need (the help) the most." Feldman said the AYP system is the "right idea," but needs to be adjusted to give schools more credit for showing improvement.

Kress emphasized the overall progress that has been made so far. He said 50 states have accountability plans and that "has moved the ball forward." He noted there has been a 45 percent increase in Title I dollars since the law was passed. On the other hand, he said many states do not understand that the federal AYP requirements need only be part of a state's accountability plan, and that accountability systems can be largely state-driven. In states where they know this, he said, "you see a lot more effective implementation than in states where they apparently don't know it." Kress also said "there needs to be clear regulations for special education and Limited English Proficiency students. What do we do with a youngster who's fresh to the country and the state doesn't provide a test in that child's native language? Do we test him in English or not? When we get common-sense answers to this, we will be able to raise the grade for implementation."

Kress added later that he thought the law would one day be considered "the premier civil rights legislation of its era" because it would help to close racial achievement gaps.

For the transcript of this meeting, go to:


— Business Roundtable
Press Release
Education Leaders Give No Child Left Behind Act Grade Of "A", But Cite Implementation Problems





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