PTA Awash in Contradictions
Although the National PTA, Office of Government Relations admits to preparing the position statement on NCLB (printed below), it reads as though it came out of the back pockets of Rod Paige's PR team. The National PTA, Office of Government Relations should read their organization's position statement on assessment (printed below).
Thanks to Sue Allison of Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing (MAHST) for this item on the PTA.
Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing (MAHST)organizers have set their sites on the complete annihilation of the Maryland High School Assessments, which are slated to become make or break graduation requirements for the class of 2007. Their "no-holds-barred" web site is sure to grab the attention of parents and politicians - they are well on their way!
On its "PTA and Washington" page, the national PTA's position on NCLB makes no mention of their clearly contradictory position on Student Testing and Assessment... "One Child One Voice???"
Excerpt from Position statement on Student Testing and Assessment
The National PTA opposes:
a. federal legislation and/or regulations that mandate standardized
testing or would lead to such testing;
b. federal policies that mandate comparisons of states, school districts or individual schools.
PTA's Position on NCLB
National PTA supported the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in January 2002. National PTA believes that every child should be held to high academic expectations and have the opportunity to attend a quality public school staffed with highly qualified teachers.
National PTA was instrumental in securing increased parent involvement in all areas of the law. The definition of parent involvement in the law is based on National PTA's National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs. Parents now have firm, legal rights to parent involvement at the school-, district- and state-level, and the law promotes our National Standards nationwide.
The law has shed light on widening achievement and resource gaps and has led to much needed targeted assistance for low-performing schools and subgroups.
However, the implementation of the law also has had some unintended consequences that have interfered with some schools' abilities to meet its rigorous requirements.
If the goals of NCLB are to be met, increased and targeted funding is needed, along with effective and timely implementation of all provisions of the law, especially those relating to parent involvement.
Reflections on the No Child Left Behind Act Three Years Later
• National PTA supported the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in January 2002. National PTA believes that every child should be held to high academic expectations and have the opportunity to attend a quality public school staffed with highly qualified teachers.
• National PTA was instrumental in securing increased parent involvement in all areas of the
law. The definition of parent involvement in the law is based on National PTA’s National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs. Parents now have firm, legal rights to
parent involvement at the school-, district- and state-level, and the law promotes our National
• The law has shed light on widening achievement and resource gaps and has led to much needed targeted assistance for low-performing schools and subgroups.
• However, the implementation of the law also has had some unintended consequences that have interfered with some schools’ abilities to meet its rigorous requirements.
• If the goals of NCLB are to be met, increased and targeted funding is needed, along with
effective and timely implementation of all provisions of the law, especially those relating to parent involvement.
Regulations for Implementation
Since the passage of NCLB in 2002, the Department of Education has relaxed, through
regulations, several provisions of the law.
On March 29, 2004, the Department of Education relaxed the required rates for student
participation in standardized tests used to determine whether schools have met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements under NCLB. The new rule was enacted in response to concerns
that the former standard, requiring a 95 percent student participation rate, had the effect of
preventing otherwise successful schools from meeting AYP requirements and being designated
as "needing improvement" or "failing" if a few students were absent on testing days. Under the
new rule, states are allowed to take an average of participation rates during a three-year period. If their two- or three-year average meets or exceeds 95 percent, the school will still be deemed to have met the AYP requirement. In addition, a student who is not present on a testing day because of a significant medical emergency will not be counted against the school’s participation rate.
Some school superintendents say the changes are a step in the right direction but do not go far
enough. About 28 percent of the nation’s schools failed to meet federal improvement standards
last year, and the number is expected to grow this year. In California, 45 percent of schools—
including 400 that had exceeded state expectations—failed to meet federal improvement goals.
Recently, 14 state superintendents, in a published letter, urged the Department of Education to adopt a different accountability model that would be more closely aligned with existing state practices.
Teacher Qualification Standards
NCLB defines "highly qualified" as a teacher that: (1) holds at least a bachelors degree; (2) is fully certified or licensed under State law; and (3) has demonstrated competency in each core
subject matter taught. On March 15, 2004, the Department of Education announced new rules
easing NCLB qualification standards for teachers who teach more than one subject, particularly
those in rural districts and science teachers. These regulations were issued in response to
widespread concern that many of the law’s requirements (including a requirement that all
teachers obtain a degree in the subjects they teach), are too rigid and impractical, if not
impossible, to meet in certain areas.
The new rules ease qualification standards for teachers in rural areas—which constitute about
one-third of the nation’s school districts. Rural teachers who already are qualified in at least one subject have three more years to become qualified in the other subjects they teach. The Department’s new guidance also allows states to use their own certification standards under the broad field of science, instead of requiring certification in each individual science discipline, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Another provision allows teachers of multiple subjects seeking to meet alternative standards (known as High, Objective, Uniform State Standards of Evaluation or HOUSSE), to fill out only a single application, instead of individual applications for each subject they teach.
Some advocates welcome the new flexibility but have expressed concern that the policy does not
go far enough because it fails to address qualification problems faced by urban, middle school, and special education teachers who face similar teacher qualification challenges. National PTA believes that improving teacher quality is a key element of effective school reform, and supports the Department of Education’s efforts to provide flexibility in areas where teacher qualification standards may be difficult to meet.
Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Policies
On February 19, 2004, the Department of Education announced new policies that relaxed the testing requirements currently applicable to 5.5 million limited English proficiency (LEP) students in U.S. public schools. Under NCLB, states must include the academic achievement
results of all students, including LEP students, in meeting AYP. However, LEP students often
have a difficult time participating in state assessments due to language barriers or the lack of prior schooling. The new flexibility allows LEP students, during their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools, to have more options in the content of their testing, and some added
accommodations. States also would not be required to include results from all LEP student
testing. In addition, states would have up to two years to include in the LEP subgroup students who have attained English proficiency, which would allow schools to get credit for improving English-language proficiency from year to year.
NCLB and the States
• Under NCLB, each state was required to submit a plan to meet the law, referred to as a State
Consolidation Plan, by early 2003. In 2004, 47 states requested to amend their plans,
desiring to make it easier for schools and school districts to show adequate yearly progress. Some of the changes requested by states are intended to take advantage of revisions made by the U.S. Department of Education in federal guidelines for testing students with disabilities, testing English- language learners, and calculating the percentage of students taking state tests. Other changes proposed by states would provide more flexibility in areas not addressed by the revised federal guidelines or would allow states to adopt policies the Department had already approved for other states. To learn more about the changes made and their impact on NCLB implementation, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/letters/index.html.
• Currently, states are struggling to implement the most visible portions of NCLB, such as AYP. The parent involvement provisions of the law are less visible to the media, and are in general receiving less attention from states and school districts. PTAs have been both active and vigilant in efforts to ensure that the provisions are acted upon. National PTA is
launching partnerships that focus on the parental involvement provisions of NCLB to inform parents about the provisions and how they can use that information to better help their
children and schools to meet the requirements of the law. Training sessions and workshops are being held across the country on how to build successful partnerships between parents and schools. National PTA is monitoring changes to the law, advocating for increased support for implementation of parent involvement provisions, and working with the U.S. Department of Education to create a revised and expanded parental guidance document.
• While most states are experiencing severe budget crises and schools are strapped for funds to carry out basic educational services, NCLB has placed new demands on schools to improve
• Federal funding for elementary and secondary education has risen from nearly 35 percent since 2001 and Title I grants to local educational agencies have increased more than 45 percent since 2001.
• NCLB has never been funded at authorized levels. The fiscal year 2005 appropriation leaves our schools $7.76 billion short of the promised level for this year alone. The President’s proposed fiscal year 2006 budget would leave our schools $9.4 billion short of the promised level for that year and bring the overall funding shortfall to $30.8 billion since 2002.
• If schools had received the full amount promised when NCLB was signed into law, schools
would have been able to, reduce class sizes for more than 6.5 million students, hire more than
139,000 teachers to provide specialized instruction in math and reading to help children meet state standards, or provide access to after-school programs for more than 2 million students.
• For additional information on federal funding levels and the need for adequate funding, see
the National PTA fact sheet, "Education Funding and No Child Left Behind."
National PTA Position Statement: Student Assessment and Testing
The National PTA believes that the overall goal of student assessment and testing programs should be to identify how instruction can be improved and learning increased. Assessments should be used to increase the opportunities
for students, rather than deny opportunities through practices such as tracking or discriminating by gender, ethnicity, culture or disability.
The National PTA opposes:
a.. federal legislation and/or regulations that mandate standardized
testing or would lead to such testing;
b.. federal policies that mandate comparisons of states, school
districts or individual schools.
It is the role of the federal government to assist state and local levels through researching better assessment models, collecting data and reporting information based on a set of indicators.*
The National PTA supports nationally agreed-upon voluntary educational standards if they are derived by consensus at the state and local levels. Parents must be involved in this process. Educational standards are generally agreed upon criteria which define what students are expected to learn and to know at various developmental stages.
Multiple-choice tests inadequately measure many of the most important educational outcomes, especially competencies including higher level
thinking, inductive and deductive thinking, creativity, and problem solving. Standardized multiple choice tests should never be used with preschool and early elementary children for any purpose. School readiness tests are never
The National PTA believes that valid assessment does not consist of only a single test score, and that at no time should a single test be considered the sole determinant of a student's academic or work future, e.g., high
school graduation, scholarship aid, honors programs or college admissions.
Tests are only one facet of a sound assessment program. Components of a sound assessment program should include:
1.. Instruments that are culturally and racially bias-free and in a language that the student understands;
2.. Measurement of what has been taught;
3.. Multiple measures which are performance based reflecting the different kinds of knowledge and skills that a student is expected to acquire, e.g., written examinations, portfolios of student work, group projects, and open ended test questions.
4.. Strategies in providing special remedial and other instructional support for those students who fall below school district standards and expectations;
5.. Procedures and information that are understandable to parents, students and teachers, and provide guidance about how student learning can be increased;
6.. Provisions for maximum local and state control regarding the determination of tests to be given, the appropriate uses for the resulting
data, and for continuous review related to assessment quality, appropriateness of standards, objectives, procedures, exercises and
usefulness in improving the instructional program;
7.. Field testing of new assessment models to assure that they are educationally useful;
8.. Involvement of parents at all levels, but particularly at the local level, in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of a viable student assessment and testing program.
An assessment system built solely on tests and what can be easily measured has the potential of misleading parents and students. During the past
several years, assessment has been expanded to include other variables, called indicators, that have an impact on student learning, but are not
easily identified or measured. The National PTA supports the development of indicators, in addition to student testing, to provide a more balanced representation about educational quality in a particular school district.
Indicators such as equity, competency of teaching staff, physical infrastructure, curriculum class size, instructional methods, existence of tracking, number of higher cost students, dropout rates, and parental
involvement are important in holding schools accountable and monitoring the quality of education. These indicators are more difficult to compensate for in a state-by-state comparison.
* Indicators are statistics that measure our collective educational well-being. They provide information about a significant feature of the
system; they usually incorporate a standard against which to judge progressor regression. >From U.S. Department of Education National Center on Educational Statistics.
Adopted: by the 1981 Board of Directors
Revised: by the 1987, 1990, and 1991 Board of Directors
Reviewed: by the 1993 and 1996 Convention Resolutions Committee
National PTA, Office of Government Relations
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES