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NCLB Outrages

NAACP involvement in CT case on NCLB

Surprise. Surprise. The media has portrayed the Connecticut NAACP role as pro-NCLB. In reality, the case isn't nearly so clear-cut.

by Monty Neill, Exec. Dir., FairTest

There's been an argument on ARN-L [the main Assessment Reform Network discussion list] about the role of the NAACP in the Connecticut lawsuit against NCLB. The NAACP intervened on the side of the US Dept of Education.

FYI, here is some information derived from that discussion that could be of use to you [ARN State Coordinators].

The ARN discussant (Art Burke) who is arguing that the intervention means that the NAACP supports NCLB has written:
NAACP's own words in its petition to the
Connecticut court were:

"..Intervenors seek to protect their interest in Connecticutâ?Ts full and
complete compliance with the letter and spirit of NCLB. They seek to secure the
enhanced educational opportunities and outcomes that Congress intended when
it approved NCLB with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2001. These tangible
benefits will be impaired if Connecticut succeeds in its campaign to avoid
its responsibilities under the Act."

I wrote in response:

The primary stated reason for NAACP intervention is a concern that if CT wins, it will open a door for attacking a wide range of other civil rights provisions as being "unfunded mandates." The NAACP is concerned, correctly, with the long history of state's ignoring equity needs.

FairTest and many others in their work on NCLB have made clear that we support efforts at funding equity and building school capacity to actually educate all children well - things we believe the evidence shows NCLB hurts rather than helps. There are of course opponents of NCLB who are simple states' righters who would be happy to maintain gross inequities.

John Brittan, the attorney who has sued CT for allowing inner cities such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport to have unequal and inadequate educational opportunities, has raised issues more supportive of NCLB. He does not represent the national NAACP, though he took the lead in getting the NAACP involved and thus participating in what Brittan has submitted to the court. A number of attorneys around the US who have battled states of funding equity/adequacy like tests because the data enables them to attack the states. That, BTW, is fine with FairTest. The error they make is in then equating the gather of test data with a "remedy" of high stakes testing. I've talked with some of those folks and they even agree with our concerns about testing, but some still confound the two uses of tests (possibly informative data vs high stakes uses). Bill Taylor does this, as does Ted Kennedy. They should not.

As for the NAACP. That group was one of the first signers of the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, which calls for a major overhaul of the law, including the testing provisions. Since the launching of the CT suit, the NAACP directors of education (one replaced another) have participated in two briefings held by signers of the Statement, one with Congressional staffers, the other at the Alliance for Education; and as recently as our May meeting, participated in the Forum on Educational Accountability, making clear their continued desire to participate with us and their continued support for the Statement and the efforts underway to expand on and develop the Statement.

And Peter Campbell wrote:
I called the Connecticut NAACP this afternoon and spoke for half an
hour to one of the attorneys handling the case for the NAACP. He was
clear, forthright, and unequivocal in one thing: the NAACP does not
support NCLB. He discussed the way the story had been spun by the
media and how regretful this was. He also made it clear that the
NAACP was certainly not a supporter of the Connecticut department of
education. At the end of the day, the NAACP wants to be part of the
conversation regarding the future of children. To get a place at the
table, they had to pick a side in the debate. They could not side
with the state because they feel the state is not doing enough for
children. He said again and again that filing the motion to intervene
on behalf of the federal department of education was not done as a
sign of support for the Bush administration or NCLB. At the end of
the day, they chose to side with the feds because the feds were seen
as the lesser of two evils. The NAACP hopes for an agreement to be
reached that will make a real difference for children. They contend
that neither the state of Connecticut nor the Bush administration is
committed to the education of children, especially poor and minority

— Monty Neill, Exec. Dir., FairTest
ARN-State discussion list


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