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NCLB Outrages

NCLB to Get Left Behind?

Ohanian Comment: As Shakespeare pointed out, a rose by another name still has thorns. An NCLB update on this principle would be that stinkweed by another name still smells.

When a corporate politico talks about growth, what comes to mind is tumor.

McKeon says education shouldn't be partisan. Maybe someone should explain to him that it shouldn't exclude teacher and parent concerns either.

Let's hope these freshman Congressmen remember their campaign promises. Anyone living in their districts should be sure and remind them. Send them copies of Elizabeth Jaeger's booklet, What Every Parent, Teacher, and Community Member Needs to Know About No Child Left Behind. If you promise to send copies to these freshman members of Congress, I'll let you buy fewer than 100 copies. You can e-mail me: susano@gmavt.net

Don't procrastinate. This needs to be done NOW.


By Steven T. Dennis, Roll Call Staff

President Bushâs signature No Child Left Behind law is about to get an overhaul courtesy of the Democratic Congress, and the name itself could be one of the casualties.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), the 16-term veteran on the Education and Labor Committee, said he was the first to propose renaming the measure, noting that the education bill has been renamed every time it has been reauthorized.

The name change will be made ânot just for the sake of cosmetics but will reflect the changes we are making,â Kildee said. âWeâre trying to come up with a bill thatâs more acceptable to the education community.â A new name âwould communicate the fact that we are listening to them and making substantive changes.â

Kildee said whatever name lawmakers end up with, it should include the word âgrowthâ because the new legislation will transition to a new scoring system that tracks the growth of individual students, addressing a key complaint about the current standards, which grade schools based on succeeding groups of students rather than measuring growth over the course of the year.

âI believe No Child Left Behind has lost so much credibility that it needs to be rebranded,â House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said this week. Clyburn said the law needs to be overhauled to ensure fairness among districts and states, complaining that the law encourages states to lowball standards to meet yearly improvement goals, while states with higher standards, like South Carolina, are punished.

House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) is working with ranking member Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) to craft a bill with strong bipartisan support, but they have to face concerns from both the right and left flanks, with teacherâs unions and others unhappy about some provisions and conservatives concerned about federal meddling in local affairs.

âRight now we are working together in good faith,â McKeon said. âGeorge Miller really wants to get it done.â McKeon strongly supports the law but says it needs to be tweaked to deal with inequities. Changes in the works include making accommodations for schools with large numbers of English as a Second Language students and special education students.

Schools with large numbers of students transitioning in and out of the school over a year are at a disadvantage under the current system, McKeon and others acknowledge. âThatâs what weâve been working on trying to fix,â McKeon said. âItâs an example of how the process is supposed to work. Nothing is perfect.â

McKeon said he hopes the issue wonât devolve into partisan warfare the way immigration did. âMy feeling is that education shouldnât be partisan. If we get it done right, we should have a majority of both caucuses. Iâm hoping that people wonât get locked in concrete over something that has got to be done.â

But the makeover comes as Bushâs clout on Capitol Hill has hit a new low, with some Republicans warning that No Child Left Behind could be a repeat of the meltdown on immigration legislation, where Bushâs own party abandoned him.

NCLB faces a revolt from some leading Republicans, including House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and numerous rank-and-file Members.

âMy constituents hate it,â said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who has authored a bill turning NCLB into a block grant program, attracting 60 Republican co-sponsors so far. âPeople are teaching to the test, there are all kinds of federal mandates, the costs arenât fully reimbursed and it is leading to soft discrimination because schools know which students are a danger to their meeting [the standards] and they encourage them to leave.â

Hoekstra argued that the rigidity of the federal standards penalize schools that attract large numbers of special education students, for example. âI think itâs very, very hard to be in Washington, D.C., and design a system for every school district in America.â

Hoekstra said Republicans are no longer willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt.

âThe president is totally out of touch,â Hoekstra said. âMost Republicans supported this issue because they wanted to support a new president, not because itâs what they really believed.â

Hoekstra also noted that there has been significant opposition among key constituencies in local districts.

âThis is the one program I can go to my traditional Democratic constituency groups and say I voted against and I get a standing ovation,â he said.

Kildee said another obstacle for the bill is that many freshmen on both sides of the aisle campaigned against NCLB.

âThe freshmen are very concerned about No Child Left Behind so I think we have to make substantive changes but still have standards,â Kildee said.

Democrats also want a commitment from Bush that he will pony up more cash for the program next year. Democrats have estimated that Bush and the GOP-led Congress have underfunded the program by $55 billion to date.

âOne [problem] is the funding and the other is the policy,â said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.). âThe key is to make it clear to people that we are changing it in some significant ways,â regardless of what itâs called.

Senators are also getting into the naming game. Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) made his bid Wednesday, proposing the âAll Students Can Achieve Act,â which would also move toward growth scoring and has the backing of Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is expected to unveil his version of the legislation after the August recess. The name has not yet been released.

— Steven T. Dennis
Roll Call
2007-07-19
http://www.rollcall.com/issues/53_9/news/19458-1.html


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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