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NCLB Outrages

Klein Gives Powerful 'No Child' Defense

By Carl Campanile

City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein gave an impassioned defense of the federal No Child Left Behind law yesterday, saying schools need more testing and accountability - not less - to bolster performance and close the achievement gap.

And Klein stressed that the city's own promotion policies and school measures go well beyond what the NCLB requires.

The NCLB - approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2001 - requires standardized testing in schools and a breakdown in scores of students by race, ethnicity and disability.

"It is incredibly valuable because it recognizes that the achievement gap - the gap that separates our African-American and Latino students from their white and Asian peers - is the chief problem in American schooling," Klein said during a speech before the Aspen Institute's Commission on NCLB in West Hartford, Conn.

Klein testified right after Connecticut officials, who filed suit against the U.S. Education Department, claiming the federal law is too intrusive and requires too many tests. Klein disagreed.

"When they passed NCLB, our national leaders finally took responsibility for the fact that white and Asian students are performing four years ahead of African-American and Latino students in high school. Four years. And this law finally put muscle behind the attempt to close that gap," Klein said.

Klein also flunked his anti-testing critics, who claim NCLB and the Bloomberg administration's policy curbing social promotion have turned schools into testing mills.

He said NCLB - like most laws - is not perfect. But he described as "fundamental" the law's focus on holding educators responsible for teaching all students.

"I've never met a law that couldn't improve. But to criticize the heart of No Child Left Behind is to refuse to take responsibility for the achievement gap - the most serious civil-rights, social and economic crisis facing America today," Klein said.

He added that schools should be testing students "routinely," as long as the exams are based on solid standards.

"The anti-testing advocates would have you believe that people like me want our students to run through daily drills on how to properly fill in bubbles with No. 2 pencils. That couldn't be further from the truth," the chancellor said.

"Our teachers should teach students the skills and ideas they must master in order to pass their tests. That's teaching to the test," he said.

Klein also emphasized the city's program has carrots to go along with the sticks, by giving principals more power over curriculum, budgeting and hiring decisions in exchange for greater accountability.

The chancellor said the city Education Department also will begin using data more precisely than NCLB requires to track student performance over a number of years - called the "value-added" approach.


— Carl Campanile
New York Post


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