Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Hillary Clinton Critical of NCLB Before State Teachers’ Union

Ohanian Comment: Can a Standardista change her spots? Voters would do well to check out Senator Clinton's long history on standards and testing. Maybe it's time to once again call up the infamous Dear Hillary letter, written Nov. 11, 1992, by Marc Tucker to the President-elect's wife. No, Hillary didn't write the letter, but she did serve on Tucker's National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and was known as an advocate of improving schools through standardized testing.

What we need to do is convince John Edwards to come out against NCLB.

By Alyson Klein


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the current front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, today blasted the No Child Left Behind Act as narrowing schoolsâ curricula and relying too heavily on standardized tests at the expense of student creativity.

âWe can all agree that we do need measures,â she told the New York State United Teachersâ annual convention in the nationâs capital. âWe do need accountability. But not the kind of accountability that the NCLB law has imposed on people. Not only has it been funded at less than has been promised, itâs been administered with a heavy and arbitrary hand.â

âItâs time we had a president who cares more about learning than about memorizing,â Sen. Clinton added. âThe tests have become the curriculum instead of the other way around.â

The crowd of about 3,000 at the Washington Hilton, which had been waving âNew York [Heart]âs Hillaryâ signs when Sen. Clinton took the stage, erupted into thunderous applause. She was the only presidential candidate appearing before the union.

Sen. Clinton voted in favor of the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. As a formal presidential candidate since January, she has yet to release any detailed proposals for overhauling the law, which is due for reauthorization this year.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, suggested in a speech to the National School Boards Association earlier this month that the law be amended to test students less frequently, possibly three times during their K-12 careers instead of annually in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school.

Sen. Clinton wasnât nearly as specific about which changes she would seek for the NCLB lawâs testing requirements. Still, she said that lawmakers need to ârethink how we do assessmentsâ under the law.

Her remarks indicated that she knew her audience. The 575,000-member NYSUT, which is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, has been highly critical of the federal law, calling for it to be more flexible and less punitive.
Testing Taking Over

Sen. Clinton couched her criticisms of the lawâs testing provisions in terms of economic competitiveness, which has been a buzz phrase in education policy.

âIsnât it ironic that China is now looking at how they can open up their schools to creativity, while we are becoming more like rote learning centers?â she said.

Sen. Clinton also criticized the lawâs provisions allowing students in schools that fail to meet achievement targets to receive access to tutoring, often provided by private companies. She said that since such tutors arenât subject to the same accountability regulations as public school educators and administrators, itâs difficult to tell whether such supplemental services are working.

She said policymakers should focus resources instead on what she described as proven remedies, such as smaller class sizes and enhanced parent involvement. Teachers deserve greater professional respect and higher pay, particularly if they are willing to work in some of the hardest-to-staff schools, she said.

Sen. Clinton also criticized her colleagues in Congress for what she said was a failure to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides federal money to school districts to help educate students in special education.

While Sen. Clinton gave her audienceâsome of whom hissed at the mere mention of No Child Left Behindâplenty to cheer about, she reasserted her support for charter schools, to the chagrin of some.

Still, the speech appeared to have resonated with most of her audience. Several union members said that they were more inclined to vote for her after hearing her speak.

âI liked what she had to say. The testing is just taking over, and I hope she can change that,â if she becomes president, said Jane Cassidy, a special education teacher at Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown, N.Y. Ms. Cassidy, a Democrat, said she is leaning toward supporting Sen. Clinton in next yearâs presidential primary.

âI thought she had excellent things to say,â said Thomas Stephens, a social studies teacher at Hicksville Middle School, in Hicksville, N.Y., who called the NCLB law âthe worst thing thatâs ever happened to public education.â

— Alyson Klein
Education Week web


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.