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NCLB Outrages

Lieberman pushes for renewal, expansion of 'No Child'

by Maria Garriga

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., who championed the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act in education, plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would reauthorize the law while making sweeping changes that increase accountability measures and close loopholes.

The reauthorization, billed All Students Can Achieve, calls for teachers to be evaluated based on how much students learn, expands use of data analysis to track individual student progress over time, introduces voluntary national education standards, sets up state committees on curriculum quality, and closes loopholes in the law that permit states to not count special categories of students if they fall below certain numbers.

"No Child Left Behind provides a foundation to close the persistent achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their more wealthy peers. In our proposal, we ask states to focus on actual teacher performance in achieving student academic growth. We want to make sure that we can get the best teachers to the students most in need. We also seek to ensure that states maintain high academic standards so that all children graduating from high school are prepared to succeed in college, the workplace and life," Lieberman said Wednesday in a statement.

Unions are wary of the measure but welcome some of the proposal’s other provisions, such as a shift in focus to student progress over the years instead of comparing test scores of a previous year’s cohort of students to the current year of students, called the status model.

The shift to a growth model would mean a fourth-grader in 2007-08 would be compared against progress of classmates in 2008-09 rather than against the incoming fourth-grade class, as would be the case in the status model.

The bill would provide a funding infusion to develop massive data systems that can track individual student progress and link those students back to the teachers, in an effort to gauge teacher effectiveness. After five years of continuously being rated as ineffective, teachers would no longer be permitted to teach in Title I schools.

The new reauthorization law also would set up a committee in each state to evaluate quality of state curriculum from prekindergarten through college, and develop voluntary national curriculum standards.

While the proposal would give NCLB an extensive makeover, it cleaves to NCLB’s original purpose, to ensure every child can meet literacy and math grade standards by 2014.

"This is a situation where the devil really is in the details," said John Yerchick, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, a union that represents 39,000 teachers in Connecticut. "The bill does little to fix the flaws of NCLB and adds considerably to the problems of the law. One of the major problems is the proposal to evaluate teachers using standardized student test scores. It’s a controversial idea and there is considerable evidence it does not work."

Lieberman announced the bill along with Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and said the new bill would make NCLB more parent-friendly, child-friendly and results-oriented.

The bill also would include incentive grants to induce states to try innovative, performance-boosting programs.

School reformers consider the bill a step in the right direction.

"Lieberman is taking a leadership role in getting NCLB reauthorized. One of the great frustrations with NCLB is that it labels schools as failing but doesn’t do much beyond that. He is putting more tools on the table for better public schools," said Marc Porter Magee, spokesman for Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.

— Maria Garriga
New Haven Register


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