Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

A Victory for Education

Ohanian Note: This important addition came "over the transom," meaning I received it after posting an exchange with the New York Times editorial page editor clarifying their position on NCLB. The parent offers a crucial commentary on the exchange. Read what follows the text in blue and them come back and read this articulate and savvy Chicago parent's comments (in blue text), which I use with her permission.

I would just add that my mail from parents and grandparents is increasing dramatically.

November 30, 2005

The next time Ms. Collins speaks of NCLB as being a good idea kindly relay my story to her. I am an African American mother with a 12 year old who has been in 3 schools in the last 4 years (I finally gave up and am now struggling to put my daughter through private school, which by the way, is just a step above our local public schools--a shout out to all of those who think PRIVATE schools are better than PUBLIC). The public school she attended wa s "test-crazy." So much so that they would actually pass out test-prep workbooks in October to prepare for tests in March and April. These workbooks made up the bulk of homework assignments during the year. They had "test pep" assemblies, and would often visit classrooms to scare the children into doing well on these test, even outlining the consequences of what would happen if they didn't score well. At one point, the tension became so apparent that my daughter's teacher had a breakdown right in front of the students (she, incidentally, retired after the school year). This brought out fears and anxieties in my daughter the likes of which she had never before experienced.

My daughter has finally settled down, but it has taken three long, horrible years. She lost her self-confidence, creativity, and joy, and I have lost faith in our system of education.

Keep fighting the good fight, Ms. Ohanian. I just want to let you know that those of us who have ACTUAL first-hand experience with these insane policies appreciate what you are doing.

Alecia S. Person
Chicago, Illinois

Ohanian Comment: I complained to the New York Times editorial board chief Gail Collins about the paper's unremitting support of NCLB, and I guess I now give up on them. She informs me that they know they're right:

. . . As to No Child, as you obviously know, the board strongly supports the idea of having the federal government require school districts to prove they're making progress, particularly in narrowing the gap between minority and white students. And we're happy that it's being tied to federal funding. Testing, while obviously imperfect, seems to us the best vehicle for making those assessments. I'm well aware that's a controversial position and it's one we frequently re-examine.

We have no quarrel with critics who think No Child is underfunded and in some areas badly administered, or who believe the Bush administration has at times used it as part of a misbeguided cultural war.

Although we've had strong differences with the NEA on the No Child front, please don't ever imagine the editorial board is hostile to teachers. At least half the board members have taught at one time or another, some in public schools. Many of our spouses and relatives are teachers. Our feedback on the drawbacks of the Bush administration's education policies generally begins at the breakfast table. But to be honest, the worst horror stories about the qualification levels of teachers in some districts come from the same place.

Right. And some of my best friends are newspaper editors.

I have strong differences with the NEA on the No Child front too: they didn't have the guts to say it's a rotten bill and should be scrapped.


A federal judge in Michigan took exactly the right action last week when he dismissed a transparent attempt by the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, to sabotage the No Child Left Behind education act. The ruling validates Congress's right to require the states to administer tests and improve students' performance in exchange for federal education aid. Unfortunately, it will not put an end to the ongoing campaign to undermine the law, which seeks to hold teachers and administrators more closely accountable for how their schools perform.

Another lawsuit, by Connecticut, is still pending. Moreover, the N.E.A. is likely to appeal the decision in its own suit in an effort to continue its campaign of vilification against the law. The No Child Left Behind program is the first in American history to require that states improve students' performance, and shrink the achievement gap between rich and poor students, in exchange for the billions of dollars they receive in federal aid.

The teachers' union tipped its hand when it argued in the lawsuit that its members were being stigmatized when the schools where they worked were found to be performing poorly under federal law. Why does it put so much emphasis on the teachers? What about the children whose lives are cast into permanent shadow when they have to attend dismal, nonperforming schools?

The N.E.A. and the local school districts that joined the suit claimed that the federal government had illegally required the states and localities to spend their own money on testing. While it seems clear that test development is one of the better-financed parts of the law, improving school systems nationwide will certainly require more time, effort and money than the country has yet invested. But that should not be an excuse for doing nothing.

— Editorial
New York Times


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.