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NCLB Outrages

NCLB โ€“ Next Steps, plus observations and comments

Ohanian Comment: As a co-founder of Educator Roundtable, I am for dumping NCLB. The behavior of both Miller and Kennedy has been reprehensible and unresponsive. They can't seem to come to grips with the fact that they made a terrible mistake.

That said, Monty Neill offers a good plan for those who believe there's hope left with Miller and Kennedy. At the very least, hopeful or not, we should all contact their offices with our strong opinions. We should also contact the people who travel under the name of Congressional representative.

Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Co-Executive Director

This is a fairly detailed post on my sense of where Congressional committees are in relation to the Joint Statement and the FEA proposals. It opens with recommendations, with some detail, but each point is based on a core message. I hope you can use this in reaching out to your members and constituents. It is now widely expected that the House Education Committee will consider a bill early in July.

Members are soon headed off to their July 4 week-long break. You can catch them in their home districts, as well as send your views to their Washington offices.

The comments below are based mostly on info I got at meetings in DC in mid-June (some from reading). These involve some facts, some inferences, some concerns raised by others as well as myself. They are in any event my own points.

Monty Neill

Actions รข€“ Next steps

Based on the comments below, I will start with a few recommendations for our work to overhaul NCLB.

1) Keep pressure on the leadership, esp. Rep. Miller, since House is moving more quickly, but also Sen. Kennedy.

รข— Ask your reps to contact Miller (and Kennedy รข€“ contact info below).

รข— Faxes, calls, letters are better than emails.

2) If your US Rep is on the education committee, ask them to vote "No" in committee to any bill or parts of the bill that do not make sufficient changes in the law, as per 3) below. Ask them to take a leadership position on this. Demand enough time for the Committee to make careful and informed decisions.

3) Focus on key changes needed in the law:

รข— Replace current AYP with expectations for reasonable rates of improvement based on real-world evidence; tinkering with AYP or the requirement that all score "proficient" in 2014 is not enough.

รข— Insist on use of multiple sources of evidence in evaluating schools (multiple measures); that does not mean creating more ways for schools to fail.

รข— Provide funds for states and districts to develop locally-based, performance assessments that can be used first for instruction and second, when ready, as part of accountability.

รข— Expect all schools to take reasonable steps to improve, including high-quality professional development, strong parental involvement, and

รข— Replace current sanctions system with a focus on targeted assistance to help struggling schools improve.

4) Get as many other people and organizations to fax, call, or write, based on points 1, 2 and 3.

House contact info:

Rep. George Miller, Chair
House Education Committee
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
202-225-3725; fax 202-226-5398

You can locate your Rep at http://www.house.gov and locate committee members at http://www.edlabor.house.gov/about/members.shtml.

Fax, mail and phone is better but emails can be sent from each members website.

Senate contact info:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Chair
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee
Senate Dirksen 428
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-0767; fax (202) 224-5128

You can locate your Senator at

and locate committee members at http://www.help.senate.gov/About.html.

Fax, mail and phone is better but emails can be sent from each members website.

Reauthorization time frame

House, I am told, will be "ASAP" รข€“ could well be a markup by start of July or soon after.

One staffer said s/he feared that what would happen is that a base bill would be dropped on the committee, which would be given almost no time to react (especially since amendments need to go through legislative counsel). Members have indicated to Miller they want time, but the fear is that will not happen. Further, that Miller may not introduce bill to committee, voting it out of without knowing he can get it to House floor within 2 weeks of a committee vote. All this is to prevent opposition to whatever is in the base bill from coalescing (opposition may come from many different quarters, Republican and Democratic). While it is still too early to know what will be in the base bill, I have no doubt that even if we make some progress we will be a long way from what FEA has stated it wants.

So the question is, can we help members resolve to not go along with Miller unless bill is sufficiently modified. This gets politically touchy and complex, but if Miller's base bill is quite good, it will take political strength to win the changes we seek.

In Senate, things are clearly moving slower. Kennedy has a close relationship with Sen. Enzi (WY), the ranking Republican. WY uses "Body of evidence" not single test as a grad requirement, and the 'body of evidence' is locally determined. Can this fact be used with Enzi?

Taken together, the House is now the more immediate concern since Miller is on such a fast track. He has circulated a memo to committee Democratic members listing 9 points they will discuss (in response to what members and ed organizations raised with him), including all of the above plus specific issues related to ELLs and students with disabilities. But the memo has too little specificity to say where he is on these issues or how far-reaching the changes will be. My conversations lead me to think the changes on some key issues, including AYP, will be modest rather than fundamental.

If what emerges from Committee is unsatisfactory overall or in some aspects, then amendments on the floor of the House or Senate to improve the bill will be necessary.

How much improvement is sufficient for the bill to warrant support is an issue on which various participants in FEA may end up disagreeing.

Key Issues

I have been told the requirement that by 2014 all students will be expected to score 'proficient' would remain in the 'base bill' the members of the Committees will work from (told by staff in one house, expect it is likely in the other). However, it probably will be modified by such things as:

- something like Ed Trust proposal, to extend out the years in exchange for higher bar set on proficiency (college and work ready, as ET likes to say) [not likely to lead to fewer schools declared failing];

- soften safe harbor รข€“ now 10%, lower that, but who knows how far;

- something like the proposal to count only the same subgroup over 2 years (etc) before penalties kick in, rather than imposing sanctions if any combination of subgroups in a school or district fails 2 years (etc) in a row (e.g., ELL one year, low income next year currently means failure).

- some sort of growth model, but vague on what.

This could slow the rate of schools entering INOI, but I suspect will do little for cities. No one, I expect, will have run any actual projections.

They do not seem ready to accept the idea of basing a required rate of improvement on real world evidence.

Tests. There is definitely an interest in local assessments, use of classroom measures, ensuring multiple measures and higher order thinking. There are many ways this could be done. Current law allows the Nebraska 'model,' in which the state system is comprised of local assessments รข€“ so I think the issue is not whether they will continue to allow that, but whether they will provide significant resources for states to make serious moves away from using just standardized tests, and the criteria set for this to happen. Also, I have no sense that leadership is at all interested in reducing the amount of required testing, as called for in Joint Statement.

Sanctions vs. assistance. I hear recognition of the need to reduce sanctions and increase assistance, though nothing very specific. However, there seems no response to the more basic point (which FEA makes) that all schools should be held accountable for making reasonable improvement efforts, extra assistance will be provided as needed, and only then might stronger measures be taken. Rather, they remain in the 'response to failure' mode. I know both House and Senate had interest in our professional development material (in Redefining Accountability and in FEA legislative recommendations), recognize a need to tighten up and strengthen professional development. We are likely to see something there, but how that will tie to accountability (if it does at all), I do not know (and suspect it will not except as reaction to 'failure'). I've not had time to discuss the family involvement and support proposals FEA offered, so do not know where that is at. More generally, I don't see anyone responding with anything concrete to our basic approach of 'balanced accountability' for processes and results.

That's it for now.

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) Works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.

You can donate online at

— Monty Neill
Fair Test


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