[Susan notes: I'm repeating the reaction to someone on a listserv: This letter is truly effective--succinct, factual, persuasive.
We must all go forth and do likewise.]
Published in US News and World Report
Contrary to what Zach Miners says ( The challenge to find a new standard), the "core criticism" of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was not a lowering of state standards.
In response to a survey done at the University of California at Riverside, 84% of 740 "highly accomplished" National Board Certified Teachers said they had "unfavorable attitudes" toward NCLB. They pointed out that NCLB resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum, and low enthusiasm among teachers and students. Many felt that it had a negative impact on critical thinking, and made it harder to deal with individual interests and needs. These are the core criticisms.
This discomfort might be worth it if NCLB had produced positive results, but it hasn't. Education Secretary Spellings (Measuring the value of accountability) claimed that reading scores for 9 year-olds on national tests (NAEP) went up under NCLB. The increase, however, took place before NCLB went into effect. Also, students in Reading First did no better than students in regular programs on tests of reading comprehension, even when they had more instructional time.
We have wasted billions on a program teachers do not like, and that does not produce results. Race to the Top plans to bring in an even more rigid program, with "common standards and tests" and "assessments aligned to these standards" (Michael Cohen, "States are leading the way in shared approaches," Jan.). This means a significant increase in the amount of testing done, an astonishing step to take when children are already over-tested and budgets are very tight.
Education Secretary Duncan claims that Race to the Top will take advantage of the ideas of "great teachers and great principals" ("School reform's new chief financial officer," Jan.). Great teachers and great principals are not demanding new standards and tests. I don't think the Secretary is listening to the real professionals.