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NCLB Outrages

Bush Visits School to Speak on Education Law

For a different view of "exemplary school," see: So How Did North Glen Elementary Raise Test Scores?

By Elisabeth Bumiller

GLEN BURNIE, Md., Jan. 9 - President Bush visited an exemplary school in suburban Baltimore on Monday to say that his signature education law, No Child Left Behind, was working and that he would resist any move by educators and Congress to change it.

"I'll fight any attempt to do that," Mr. Bush said at North Glen Elementary School here. "I'm just not going to let it happen. We're making too much progress."

The president was evidently alluding to amendments to the law introduced by Maine's two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both Republicans, that the senators say would make the law less onerous for local school districts.

More broadly, many educational groups as well as school boards, state legislators and teachers' unions have called for an overhaul of the law because they say it has grown unwieldy and incomprehensible, and describes many schools as failing when they are not.

Since 2002, the law has required that tests be given annually to children in third through eighth grade and once in high school.

Mr. Bush made his comments on the fourth anniversary of his signing of the act and said he had singled out as a backdrop North Glen, a school that has a large number of black students, because of its achievements under the law, which was aimed largely at helping disadvantaged minority students.

In 2003, Mr. Bush said, tests showed that 57 percent of North Glen students were proficient in reading and 46 percent in math. In 2005, he said, 82 percent were proficient in reading and 84 percent in math. "It's great news, isn't it?" Mr. Bush said.

As for national results, Mr. Bush said that in 2005, "America's fourth graders posted the best scores in reading and math in the history of the test."

But some educators said that Mr. Bush was selectively citing statistics to bolster his point of view and that a nationwide test administered in 2005 showed the law had achieved mixed results.

For example, while math scores on the test were up slightly, eighth-grade reading scores showed a decline. Test results also indicated that there had been only modest progress toward closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

John F. Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a nonprofit group that does an annual survey of the No Child Left Behind law, said on Monday that Mr. Bush was "claiming more credit than he can for the act."

Mr. Jennings added: "Nobody knows yet whether the act is working. The act has been successful in focusing attention on closing the achievement gap, but nobody can say that it in fact has closed the gap."

Educators have also said that Mr. Bush has never fully financed the legislation to the extent authorized under the law. Although the Bush administration has increased spending on education since the Clinton administration, the money for No Child Left Behind stayed at the same level - $24.5 billion - in 2004 and 2005. For 2006, because of overall budget cuts, the Bush administration decreased financing for the act, to $23.5 billion

— Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times
2006-01-10


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