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NCLB Outrages

Leading School Finance Expert to Call for Research-Driven Approach to Fixing No Child Left Behind Act

Yes, the need for more rigor.

by Staff

Michael Rebell of The Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia Teachers College will Address
Congressional Leaders on March 30th

Education Law Sets Right Frame, He Says, But Falls Short on Funding, Academic Rigor and School Capacity-Building

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. But with that date fast approaching and doubt growing that targets can be met, partisans of every stripe are battling over how to fix NCLB when it comes up for reauthorization next year -- or whether to scrap it entirely.

Now a new organization that combines experts from the nation's leading education school with attorneys who have won significant increases in state funding for schools in poor districts is championing a research-driven, non-partisan approach to strengthening NCLB. Pointing to a virtual consensus among state high courts about what defines a quality education and the resources needed to achieve it -- and armed with a vast database of court testimony from parents, teachers and others about problems in schools and potential solutions -- they are calling for the federal government to study the actual cost of providing an education requisite to meet NCLB's proficiency goals and develop a pragmatic approach to establishing proficiency standards and building instructional capacity in local schools.

The organization, called The Campaign for Educational Equity, is based at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City -- the nation's oldest and largest graduate school of education. The Campaign's executive director, Michael A. Rebell -- a leading school finance expert and the attorney who crafted the strategy that led to a $5.6 billion verdict for New York City schools in a lawsuit against New York State -- will introduce The Campaign to a gathering of Congressional leaders and their staff members. Joined by Laurie M. Tisch, the Campaign's Board Chair, Rebell also will discuss the lessons of the education adequacy movement for the reauthorization of NCLB and outline three broad areas of the law in need revision.

"Half a century after the Supreme Court issues its landmark ruling in Brown, it is both appropriate and necessary that the federal government act to ensure that all students will actually obtain a high-quality education within the next 10 years," Rebell says. "NCLB has created a new sense of urgency by setting a deadline for closing the achievement gaps among students, both poor and rich and minority and white."

The bipartisan meeting will be held on Thursday, March 30th at 2:30 p.m. in the Senate Russell Building, Room 188. It is being hosted by Roberto Rodriguez, senior education counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, ranking minority member, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Rebell believes NCLB falls short in three key areas:

* Providing adequate resources to all schools and districts to achieve proficiency targets. NCLB ignores "the severe resource deficiencies that are the root cause of the failure of many schools and school districts to provide all of their students a high-quality education," Rebell says. "The federal government should immediately undertake a comprehensive national study that assesses the costs nationwide of enabling all students to meet NCLB's goals."

* Ensuring rigorous academic content and teacher certification standards. Under NCLB, "state standards vary considerably and may be too low on average to prepare U.S students for the global competition they will enter after graduation," Rebell says. "In addition, NCLB appears to be motivating some states to lower their proficiency demands."

* Building capacity for school improvement. NCLB simply imposes sanctions on schools when their students fail to meet state targets. Instead, the law "should require districts in need of improvement to develop a multi-year comprehensive capacity-building plan."

Rebell emphasizes that his critique of NCLB grows directly out of his experience in school finance cases. These suits have emerged as the nation's most vital bipartisan educational movement, he says -- and a key force that has pressured states to fulfill the promise of their own effort to set higher learning standards. Since 1989, plaintiffs have prevailed in 21 of the 28 school finance cases that have been heard by state highest courts.

For more information on The Campaign or to view its reports on NCLB and other issues, visit http://www.tcequity.org

— staff
Teachers College News


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