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NCLB Outrages

Should No Child Left Behind Act be reauthorized? YES/While Congress stalls, students of color fall through the cracks

No real news here: The National Urban League and MALDEF reiterate their support for NCLB. Their argument is posted here only so people can be prepared to counter it. You don't need to reinvent the wheel: Read the principles on the Educator Roundtable Petition.

by Marc Morial and John Trasviña

The prospect of Congress waiting until after the 2008 elections to improve
and renew the No Child Left Behind Act is bad news for anyone committed to
educational quality and equity. If parents, students, educators and
community leaders do not come together in early 2008 to re-shape this law,
the nation - including the children who are most disadvantaged and
underserved in U.S schools - will suffer.

The benefits of a sound education are considerable. Well-educated
Americans earn more in wages, vote more frequently, experience better
health and contribute more to our nation's leadership in the world.
America has long held out the promise of an appropriate public education
for all, but we are not meeting this promise for millions of our children,
and the consequences for these students and the nation are enormous.

Given that only 70 percent of all high school students actually graduate,
NCLB must be reformed and well-funded. Congress urgently needs to respond
to the fact that our nation's public high schools are graduating only
about half of their African American and American Indian students and
slightly more than 50 percent of Hispanic students. Further, about 2,000
of the nation's 22,000 public high schools produce roughly half of the
nation's high school dropouts, and not surprisingly, these "dropout
factories" serve mostly students of color. Substantial NCLB reforms are
necessary to put an end to the dropout crisis and improve the state of
American public education.

We have a moral imperative to hold schools accountable - it is our
responsibility to provide every child with an excellent education so that
they can grow to be productive and prosperous adults. And there are
economic implications as well. The cost of dropping out is paid first by
the individual who fails to graduate, and then ultimately by all
Americans. If the high school graduation rates of students of color were
raised to the current level of whites by 2020, and if those minority
graduates went on to postsecondary education at rates similar to whites,
the potential increase in personal income across the country would, by
conservative estimates, add more than $310.4 billion to the U.S. economy.
Beyond the economic impact, only about 30 percent of students entering
high school today are reading at grade level, resulting in only a third
being fully prepared for college and work when they leave high school.

Unless these troubling trends are reversed, our high schools will become
increasingly complicit in creating a permanent underclass of individuals
who cannot provide for themselves and their families and are prevented
from actively wielding the levers of democracy.

Let's ensure America's global competitiveness by fully investing in the
success of all children so that they reach their full potential. NCLB is
not perfect, but it is the best national vehicle we've got for ensuring
that more students of color leave high school with a diploma in hand.

Education is a core civil right and, at a minimum, NCLB must be reframed
to make college and work preparedness for all students a top priority. It
must hold high schools accountable for student success, ensure that all
students have excellent teachers and leaders, and ensure that equitable
learning conditions exist for all students. Setting aside the
reauthorization of NCLB until after the elections risks closing the door
on thousands of high school students, who will eventually drop out because
their schools are not being held accountable for their educational
success. Congress must strengthen NCLB and reauthorize it early in 2008
before yet another class of promising students is left behind.

Marc Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League and John
Trasviña is president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund. Both organizations are managing partners of
the Campaign for High School Equity.

— Marc Morial and John Trasviña
San Francisco Chronicle


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