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NCLB Outrages

Why the Achievement Gap Persists

Ohanian Comment: Here's why I hate the thought of Educator Roundtable, the people who created the anti-NCLB Petition, buying ad space in the New York Times. Writing to them, suggesting that chief education editorialist Brent Staples let himself be informed by other Times writers, Bob Herbert, for starters, does no good. The editorial board is very defensive of Mr. Staples' uninformed verbiage.

Who are these unnamed critics of NCLB who "never wanted accountability in the first place?" Sounds like the old Joe McCarthy tactic: "I have in my briefcase the names of communists working in the state department." Times editorial has the names of NCLB critics. . . . Why not name them? Quote them?

How about naming the competitors who are "doing a better job of educating the next generation?"

Saying our workforce isn't "competitive" just means that our workforce won't work for Asian wages. Corporate America doesn't ship jobs overseas because of a noncompetitive workforce. They do it because of greed.

The Times chose not to publish this fine letter by Marion Brady. Instead, they published one blaming the achievement gap on lack of a student work ethic.

Your December 8 editorial, "Why the Achievement Gap Persists," reflects the same simplistic conventional wisdom about educating that makes No Child Left Behind unacceptable. Particularly offensive is the sentence, "Critics, some of whom never wanted accountability in the first place, have ratcheted up their attacks in anticipation of Congressional hearings...."

I invite you to visit http://www.educatorroundtable.org and read 16 reasons---not one of them an objection to being held accountable---why thoughtful educators oppose this misnamed, destructive law.
--Marion Brady


The No Child Left Behind education act, which requires the states to close the achievement gap between rich and poor students in exchange for federal aid, has been under heavy fire since it was passed five years ago. Critics, some of whom never wanted accountability in the first place, have ratcheted up their attacks in anticipation of Congressional hearings and a reauthorization process that could get under way soon after the new Congress convenes in January.

Those critics were empowered by a spate of recent studies showing that the nation has made slight overall progress in closing the achievement gap since the law went into effect. (A handful, including New York and New Jersey, are said to have made moderate progress.) The data has been seized upon as evidence that Congress set the bar too high.

Generally, the opponents do not argue that impoverished children can never be educated up to the same standards as the wealthy. They simply say it will take much longer than the law permits. In the world of education reform, where ambitious programs generally last only as long as it takes for the schools to fail to meet the first target, endless deferral of deadlines would be a death knell for No Child Left Behind.

And the country canít afford that. Unless we improve schools ó especially for minority children who will make up the work force of the future ó we will fall behind our competitors abroad who are doing a better job of educating the next generation.

Itís impossible to brand No Child Left Behind as a failure, because its agenda has never been carried out. The law was supposed to remake schools that serve poor and minority students by breaking with the age-old practice of staffing those schools with poorly trained and poorly educated teachers. States were supposed to provide students with highly qualified teachers in all core courses by the beginning of the current academic year. That didnít happen.

The country would be much further down the road toward complying with No Child Left Behind if the Department of Education had given the states clear direction and the technical assistance they needed. Instead, the department simply ignored the provision until recently and allowed states to behave as though the teacher quality problem did not exist. Thanks to this approach, the country must now start from scratch on what is far and away the most crucial provision of the law.

Getting up to speed will not be easy. Most states lack even the most basic systems for overseeing teacher training and the teacher assignment process. Worse still, the practice of dumping poorly qualified teachers into the schools that serve the poorest, neediest children has become second nature in many places.

The battle for teacher quality is just getting under way. The country can either win that battle or watch its fortunes fade as the national work force becomes less and less competitive. Given whatís at stake, the teacher quality provision of No Child Left Behind deserves to be at the very top of the list when Congress revisits the law.

— Editorial
New York Times


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