[Susan notes: Here are the letters that the New York Times published after running its terrible pro-NCLB editorial.]
Published in New York Times
Re "Rescuing Education Reform" (editorial, March 2):
The No Child Left Behind Act did not invent standards-based education. For many years, states and school districts have worked to review standards and raise expectations.
Much of this work dates back to the 1989 education summit meeting convened by the first President Bush and led by Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas.
The National Education Association and its affiliates enthusiastically supported these efforts — and continue to work with officials to raise expectations, align the curriculum with new standards and push for the necessary programs.
We cannot just dictate what students will learn. They need qualified teachers and the time to learn.
The gap in educational opportunities for low-income and minority students is extreme; the need to close that gap is urgent.
The Bush administration is trying to deal with only one side of the equation: outcomes. If we do not provide resources — like early childhood education, small classes and qualified teachers — the formula will never add up.
President,National Education Association
Washington, March 3, 2004
To the Editor:
The No Child Left Behind Act is a sorry excuse for an education reform policy (editorial, March 2). It takes the focus off education itself and instead places it much too heavily on standardized testing. The same children are still "left behind."
If we want equality in education, we must improve the financing of public schools and make sure that children with an economic disadvantage are not repeatedly left in the dust.
Williamsburg, Va., March 2, 2004
To the Editor:
"Rescuing Education Reform" (editorial, March 2) is partly right: we must not allow partisan positioning to destroy the chance offered by the No Child Left Behind Act to end substandard education for poor and minority children.
But the law needs more than "tinkering here and there." While requiring high standards, regular testing and the public reporting of test results by student subgroups is sound, the act's entire remedial approach needs to be changed.
Instead of sanctions for failing to meet "adequate yearly progress," we need to get states and localities focused on expanding the capacity of teachers to teach, administrators to lead school improvement and parents to support high-level learning.
Otherwise, what happens in classrooms and at home will not significantly improve, and we will continue to fail the children who need our help.
GARY M. RATNER
Bethesda, Md., March 2, 2004
The writer is executive director of Citizens for Effective Schools.
To the Editor:
"Rescuing Education Reform" (editorial, March 2) takes a constructive approach to education reform and the 2004 elections. With the No Child Left Behind Act, we have a chance to fundamentally transform American education, leveling the playing field so every student has the chance to learn. Unfortunately, with this year's elections, education is in danger of becoming little more than a political football.
Too often, voters are presented with superficial arguments and false choices. If reform is to succeed, politicians must reach out to teachers and parents, to answer their questions and listen to their concerns. Candidates should foster a greater understanding of how standards and testing support learning, so Americans can make informed judgments about our schools. Only then can we reach our goal: an education system marked by excellence in student performance and elimination of the achievement gap.
President and Chief Executive, Educational Testing Service
Princeton, N.J., March 3, 2004
To the Editor:
"Rescuing Education Reform" (editorial, March 2) and its arguments in support of the No Child Left Behind Act offer a classic illustration of the divide between rural and urban populations.
In Montana, the law is untenable, primarily because of demographics. Rural schools are often so small that one instructor must be responsible for multiple subjects, and sometimes multiple grades. Yet the new law requires teacher certification in each subject area.
Schools in rural communities, which might have only 20 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, struggle to find any teacher to fill a vacant position, much less one with multiple certifications. Depriving these schools of federal funds because of conditions they cannot control does nothing to improve education in these communities. This country is too large and too diverse for a "one size fits all" education policy.
Helena, Mont., March 2, 2004