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NCLB Outrages

Mayor and Superintendent Partnerships in Education: Closing the Achievement Gap

There's no room for comment here. Just read it and try not to gag. Read it and realize NCLB is alive and thriving in these corporate offices. Read it and realize just whom the U. S. House of Representatives committee people invite in to testify.

U.S. House of Representatives: Education and Labor Committee
Chairman Miller Statement (pdf)

Good morning and welcome.
In recent years, one of the bright spots in education reform in this country has been the strong interest that mayors and superintendents have taken to improve inner-city public schools. The purpose of todayâs hearing is to learn more about these admirable efforts, and their successes in raising student achievement across the board.

At a time when our nation faces extreme economic challenges, we know that providing every child with a solid education is the ticket to building a more competitive workforce, a stronger economy, and a brighter future.

For decades, Americaâs public education system has not served all children equally. Far too many children, especially low-income and minority children, were allowed to fall through the cracks.

Many of us knew that this type of system was unacceptable â and a serious threat to our democracy.

Six years ago, we set out to close this growing student achievement gap. We enacted the No Child Left Behind Act to increase accountability in our schools and ensure that no group of students could go ignored.

And although the law itself is in need of significant changes, it has provided us with critical information on how our students are learning.

We know now that while the achievement gap has narrowed over the last six years, our schools and students are still not making enough progress. We also know that our students are falling behind students in other countries when it comes to mastering basic skills, like math, science, and reading.

As a nation, we cannot afford to continue on this path.

We know we need to do a better job of providing all students with an excellent education that will prepare them to take on the jobs of tomorrow, to be our next great generation of innovators and leaders.

Today we will hear from the mayors and superintendents of major U.S. cities about the innovative strategies they have used to close the achievement gap among their students.

What is especially striking about the four cities represented here today â New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Atlanta â is that they have all had remarkable success with the very student populations that No Child Left Behind was designed to help.

In Atlanta, 100 percent of the cityâs elementary schools made adequate yearly progress last year, even with 76 percent of students living in poverty.

In Chicago, a city where nearly 85 percent of children live in poverty, the number of students meeting or exceeding expectations on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test rose by 23 percent, to 69 percent proficiency in math over the past two years. Similarly, student achievement in reading comprehension rose by 13 percent, to 61 percent proficiency over the same period.

In New York City, 74 percent of students were proficient in math this year, up from 57 percent last year.

And 58 percent of students were proficient in reading, up from 51 percent last year.
And here in DC, elementary students increased their proficiency in math by 11 percent last year, and increased their proficiency in reading by 8 points.

None of these are small feats. As Congress considers how we can best improve our federal education laws, we need to pay attention to the impressive work you are doing, how you are doing it â and most importantly â what you have learned along the way.

We need to know what tools you have found effective, and what we can do to help empower, expand, and build upon your successes.

I think we can all agree that nothing is more important than making sure that every child in this country â regardless of race or income â receives a world-class public education.

Iâd like to thank all of our witnesses for joining us.

I look forward to your testimony and learning more about how â together â we can make this vision a reality for Americaâs schoolchildren.

Thank you.

Testimony of Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, The City of New York

Good morning. I want to thank Chairman Miller â whom we were pleased to welcome to
New York last winter â and the members of this Committee for convening this hearing on
Urban Education Reform. Chairman Miller played an important role in drafting the âNo
Child Left Behindâ Act, which brought accountability to public schools from coast to
coast. Now, in working towards authorizing a new and improved Act, this committee has
rightly focused on one of the most pressing issues in public education: the achievement
gap that exists among students of different races and ethnicities.

Our country is built on the principle that all those willing to work hard have a shot at
success. But the achievement gap undermines that. Today in America, Black and
Hispanic 12th graders are reading at the same level as white 8th graders, and
unfortunately, there are too many people who accept the achievement gap as an inevitable
result of social and economic factors that are out of a schoolâs control. In New York City
â where more than 70% of our 1.1 million public school children are Black and Hispanic
â thatâs not a conclusion weâre willing to accept.

Thatâs why over the past six years, weâve done everything possible to narrow the
achievement gap â and we have. In some cases, weâve reduced it by half. But to make
even greater progress, we need to zero in on two areas that go to the heart of improving
NCLB, and that have been key to turning around New York City schools: People and

First, people. Studies have shown that if our best teachers taught our lowest-performing
students, we could close the achievement gap within five years. And by the best teachers,
I mean those with a proven track record of helping children learn. Far too much
emphasis is placed on seniority or academic credentials when what we really should be
rewarding is effectiveness.

Thatâs exactly what weâre doing in New York City. First, we showed our teachers just
how much we value the important work they do by raising salaries across the board by
43%. Those higher salaries will also help us attract a new crop of bright graduates, who
might otherwise have opted for jobs in other fields â or teaching jobs in other locations.
Second, weâve improved the tenure process so that tenure becomes a meaningful decision
based on student learning rather than a foregone conclusion. Third, weâve created
financial incentives to encourage the most effective teachers and principals to choose to
work in the schools that need them most.

Finally, we reached breakthrough agreements
with both the principalsâ union and the teachersâ union to establish pay-for-performance
bonuses â an idea that teachersâ unions have traditionally opposed. But by structuring our
pay-for-performance program in a way that puts the decisions in the hands of teachers
and principals, we won support from the head of the local teacherâs union, Randi
Weingarten. As you may know, Randi is now the president of the national AFT, and I
think thatâs a good thing, because her willingness to experiment could result in more
school districts adopting pay-for-performance programs.

Pay-for-performance leads us to the second key to closing the achievement gap:
accountability. In New York City, weâve established data-driven progress reports that
give a letter grade to every single school, and we send them out to every public school
parent. These are progress reports in the truest sense of the word, because they donât just
measure how many kids at a given school are proficient, they also measure something we
care about much more: year-to-year progress. A schoolâs letter grade on its progress
report is determined by many different factors â including its success in narrowing the
achievement gap. Based on the data weâre collecting, there are now rewards for success
in our schools â and consequences for failure.

If a school continuously fails its students,
we will shut it down. And if a teacher continuously fails his or her students, we will work to give principals the tools to remove that teacher from the classroom.

Unfortunately, this hasnât been very easy to do in New York â or in many other cities â
because of inflexible union work rules. I believe we should be treating teachers like the
professionals they are. And that means not only paying them as professionals, but also
holding them accountable as professionals. That would go a long way toward ensuring
we have top-quality teachers in high-needs schools â the single most important factor in
closing the achievement gap. But to do it, we need federal leadership â and let me suggest
one promising idea: Congress can use the power of the purse to withhold funds from
districts that fail to take meaningful steps towards reform.

Rewards for success and consequences for failure. Thatâs how it works in the real world â
the world that our students will enter when they finish school. Weâve got to do everything
we can to prepare them for that day, so that all of them â regardless of skin color â leave
school ready to claim their piece of the American Dream.â

Testimony of Joel I. Klein, Chancellor New York City Department of Education

Good morning Chairman Miller and members of the Committee on Education and Labor.

Fifteen years ago, the iconic teacherâs union leader, Al Shanker, made a point that we are still working to make real in American public schools. âThe key is that unless there is accountability, we will never get the right system,â he said. âAs long as there are no consequences if kids or adults donât perform, as
long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then weâre playing a game as to who has the power.â

No Child Left Behind focused this nation on accountability. Chairman Miller, you and your colleagues deserve great praise for this. In New York City, we have refined accountability, giving schools and families tools to assess where students are and devise plans to improve and giving administrators the information
necessary to ensure that schools are fulfilling their responsibilities to students.

When the right people are held to high standards and expected to meet them, you see results.
And thatâs what weâve been seeing in New York City. We are getting results.

Last September, we won the largest and most prestigious education award in the country, the Broad Prize for Urban Education, largely because of the progress weâve made reducing the achievement gap.

Since we started this work in 2002, our students have outpaced gains made by students in the rest of the State in math and readingâand our African-American and Latino students have gained on their white and Asian peers.

In fourth-grade math, for example, the gap separating our African-American and white students has narrowed by more than 16 points. In eighth-grade math, African-American students have closed the gap with white students by almost 5 points. In fourth-grade reading, the gap between African-American and white students has narrowed by more than 6 points. In eighth- grade reading, the gap has closed by about 4 points.

Letâs also look at our charter schools: the Cityâs 60 charters serve a population that is more than 90% African-American and Latino and 80% poor, compared to 40% and 45%, respectively, in schools statewide.

Yet charter students are head to head with students who, by anyoneâs prediction, would be much more likely to succeed. This year, about 85% of City charter students met State math standards, beating students statewide, and about 67% of City charter students met State reading standards, just shy of the statewide average.

What does this show? Achievement for high-needs students is not a dream. Itâs happening. What we must do now is make this a reality for all students.

We must make sure that as a country, the results we are seeing are meaningful in terms of our studentsâ results. All schoolsâwhether in New York or Kansasâmust provide students with the same high-quality education and must be held to
the same high standards.

And we must track individual students over time, using a "growth model," as we do in New York City. Comparing this yearâs fourth graders to next yearâs fourth graders as Federal law now requires does little to ensure that weâre helping individual students advance.

We must also not lose sight of the importance of our most important assetâour educators. Nationally, this means holding educators to high standards, and by that I mean student outcomes. That means making sure students, particularly
those with the highest needs, have teachers who can produce results.

Substantial Federal investment in pay differentials to attract the highest
performing educators to the highest needs schools is critical. Similarly, substantial Federal financial support to attract successful math and science instructors to schools would help, and a major Federal commitment to reward
teachers who get results would have a big impact.

We know that we have much hard work ahead of us, but we are confident that we are on the right track and, with your help, we can get this done.

Testimony of Adrian M. Fenty, Mayor District of Columbia (pdf)
Chairman Miller, Ranking Member McKeon and distinguished committee members: I am
honored to appear before you in the company of my esteemed fellow mayor and friend Mike
Bloomberg and with representatives from the great cities of Atlanta and Chicago. On behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia, I would like to briefly talk to you about the daunting scholastic hurdles District students face, and what their government and community have done and continue to do to provide them the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

I assumed the mayoralty of the District of Columbia in January 2007 with a determination to
completely transform a school system that spent more per pupil than any other system in the
country, yet languished at or near the bottom of every national measure of academic achievement. Simply put, the District of Columbia was failing its children.

Many doctoral dissertations analyzing the merits of competing educational theories could be
written to explain this failure, but, at its heart, the explanation was frustratingly simple: Zero accountability. Because the multi-layer bureaucracy created plenty of places for the buck to stop, we were caught in a never-ending cycle of finger pointing and blame.

In municipal government, if the city fails to pick up garbage, the mayor knows exactly which
member of his or her cabinet is answerable, and what steps need to be taken to address the
problem; yet, when it came to perhaps the most vital charge of municipal affairs â the future of our children â no one could be held to account. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the mayor had absolutely no say whatsoever in the administration of the school system of the city.

I was determined to ensure an immediate and decisive end to the cycle of blame. My approach
was, in objective terms, confoundingly simple: just as much as the mayor is accountable for
keeping the streets clear of snow, he or she should â and must â be responsible for ensuring
that the cityâs children are afforded the very best life skills and educational resources that the nationâs capital ought to provide them. And, if the mayor failed in this charge, he or she must accept the blame and consequences.

I then selected a proven educational maverick and innovator, Michelle Rhee, as the first-ever
Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, and we got to work performing such
radical, yet obvious tasks as ensuring timely delivery of textbooks to appropriate classrooms,
clearing out warehouses where text books and teaching supplies lay unused while our
teachers were spending their own money to buy these same supplies, and establishing â for
the first time â an integrated record-keeping system that tracked school records. Records, all
million pieces of paper, that had previously been strewn on the floor in a storage room at our central administration offices.

Results of Reform
There truly is a sense in the streets, homes and classrooms of this city that we are all in this
together. Parents, teachers and, most of all, students, truly understand that the bar has been
raised. But if more has been invested, it is because more is being expected. Our students seem to understand this and they have delivered.

Iâm extremely proud to be able to say that in the 13 months since taking over the schools,
weâve already made dramatic, meaningful, lasting changes. Weâve seen impressive gains in
reading and math scores for our elementary and secondary students. Weâve brought innovative reforms to staffing and personnel, including a framework for outstanding teachers to trade tenure for bonuses -- based on student achievement -- that will make them some of the
highest-paid teachers in the United States.

Next Steps
This fall, weâll take our first steps toward a comprehensive school staffing model that puts art, music and physical education teachers, nurses and counselors, and other key staff in every school building. Weâve made the tough decision to close or consolidate under-enrolled
schools to do this. Weâve developed an individualized reform plan for each of the schools that is in restructuring status under the No Child Left Behind Act. Weâre also making tremendous progress on facilities improvements. Students must get the message that they can be successful in school and that weâre committed to their success by providing appropriate environments for learning.

Mr. Chairman, you may know that I spend a few weekends a year taking part in marathons
and triathlons. Weâve done a great deal in our first year in charge of the schools, but I look at this work as just the warm-up. We have much, much further to go.

Chairman Miller, Ranking Member McKeon, and other members of the Committee, I want to
thank you for your support and for your interest in urban education. I look forward to working together to ensure a prosperous future for generations of District of Columbia students.
This concludes my prepared remarks, and Iâm happy to answer any questions.

Testimony of Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, Washington D. C. Public Schools

Good afternoon, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member McKeon and members of the
Committee. I am honored to testify today about mayoral governance and closing the
achievement gap. Considering the great challenges of DC Public Schools, we are
fortunate to be the ânew kidsâ on the mayoral governance block. I am grateful to the
leaders in New York and Chicago who have created strong models for mayoral
governance. We have already been able to apply their lessons for reform to the unique
needs and promise of Washington, DC.
I have been proud to work with urban public school systems across the country
for the past 15 years, and for one year as chancellor of the District of Columbia Public
Schools. Last summer I entered a system that showed a 70% achievement gap in some
of our schools. We are the only district in âhigh riskâ status with the Department of
Education, and only 9% of our entering freshmen graduate from college within 9 years
of beginning high school. I entered a system in which one-third of our schools have
proficiency rates below 20% in either reading or math. In other words, four out of five
students in those schoolsâabout 14,000 childrenâwere not even meeting the most
basic level of proficiency. In a district that is 81 % African-American, this is one of the
greatest institutionalized injustices imaginable. The old ways of addressing this longstanding
injustice have not been working. No matter how difficult, the solutions to this
problem must be radical and unprecedented.
Many have asked me why, considering the severe dysfunction of the system, I
would take on such a challenge. In fact, when Mayor Fenty first raised the possibility of
my appointment as chancellor, I declined; but it was not for the reasons you might
expect. I have met enough students to know that their proficiency levels do not reflect
their ability. I know first-hand from speaking and working with students that our poor and
minority students have aptitude that rivals anyone. Rather, I knew that I would not be
able to create a system that was strong and just if I had to bow to the adult and political
priorities that have prevented progress for children for years. I was not willing to lead a
system that asked children to wait another patient minute while adult priorities and
timelines diminished studentsâ life chances. When I raised this concern with the mayor,
his response was clear and immediate. Education was his first and highest priority. He
would back our students every step of the way, whatever the political cost. I knew I was
talking to someone who knew that the health and vitality of a city depends upon the
quality of education it delivers to its children, whose skills will be critical for driving the
cityâs progress in future years.
Now, after one year as chancellor under a mayoral governance structure, I see
even more clearly that it takes enormous courage to stand by this commitment. The
deepest and most far-reaching results will be seen long after a leader has left office.
With this in mind, placing self-interest and preservation behind studentsâ needs may be
the most difficult and human challenge of every publicly elected official. But to truly
honor the letter and spirit of Brown vs. the Board of Education, it is absolutely
necessary. I can unequivocally say that without mayoral governance, and without a
mayor who is willing to prioritize educational reform no matter how muddy the political
waters become, we would not have been able to achieve what we have achieved in
DCPS this year.

For years in school districts across the country, school boards led by principled
and competent officials have had difficulty making deep reforms that have equalized
education. They are bound by the political tug-of-wars that block swift action. Many
superintendents have ideas similar to mine regarding school policy and education
reform. In most cases they know the same best practices that research tells us will be
most effective, and they know how they would apply these practices to meet their own
districtâs needs. But they do not have adequate authority to assess their studentsâ needs
and take action to meet those needs. They spend much of their time jockeying with
school boards who are as bound to politics as they are to the needs of children. Despite
good intentions and the hard work of competent professionals over the years, this
structure is one of the reasons that 54 years after desegregation we still struggle to
achieve justice in education.
What is it about this governance structure that can enable us to change the tide?
First, unlike many other superintendents, I report to a boss who knocks barriers out of
the way. He runs political interference when necessary and has not flinched once in
supporting a decision I felt was best for students. Under mayoral governance I believe
we can finally reverse long-standing failures of urban public education. In many ways
DC is a microcosm of urban public education systems across the country: as our most
pressing challenges exist on a national level, reform here can be used as a model for
the country.

Second, one of the most striking challenges we face in DCPS and in other urban
districts is an utter lack of accountability. This year I met students who appealed to me
about teachers who did not show up to class. On another occasion, one of my staff
members took a call from a teacher who had applied to teach summer school. After 20
minutes of conversation he told my staff member, âHold on, I have to dismiss my class.â

This was a person who knew he was talking to someone in the chancellorâs office.
In another example, in the fall I learned that an employee had failed to fill out a
form for one of our special education students, and to conduct a meeting with another.
Her mistakes resulted in a half-million dollar cost to the system when by law the
students had to receive private placements. I called in the employee and asked her
what happened. She told me âYou need to understand. Iâm a very busy person.
Sometimes things fall through the cracks.â I explained that this studentâs placement was
under her job responsibility, and that if she did not feel up to these responsibilities then
she may want to consider another job. She responded that this was ânot fair.â At the
time I did not have the authority to make this employee and others, accountable for
meeting their job responsibilities.
As a result, we lobbied for a change in the law that would convert central office
employees to âat-willâ status. With the support of the DC Council we became better able
to ensure that our central office employees are working in the best interest of students.
Also this year, we created a new performance evaluation system. Many employees had
been with DCPS for years and had never been formally evaluated. Already the
combination of these two actions has begun to change the culture to one of
accountability and professional striving.
Third, like many other school districts, DCPS also has historically had a culture
driven more by politics and adult concerns than by the needs of children. This tension is
especially clear during discussions of school closings and consolidations. In DCPS, the
previous superintendentâafter an extensive period of community engagementâ
released a Master Education Plan, in which multiple collaborators concluded that due to
under-enrollment, it was necessary to close schools. The community agreed that it
would save the system millions of dollars that could be redirected to classrooms. Yet
even for schools that are not performing at high levels, few families want their schools to
close. Because elected officials must serve the constituents in their particular wards,
even in cities led by mayoral governance a debate ensues in which everyone agrees
that schools must close but few politicians want any schools to close in their own wards.
Fortunately, with the backing of the mayor we were able to address under-enrollment
effectively by closing 23 schools and re-directing resources to schools for next year.
The mayoral governance structure has allowed usâfor the first timeâto bring a
librarian, teacher, music teacher, psychologist, and physical education teacher to all
schools that need them.

In the years to come, I am confident that we can turn our childrenâs potential into
achievement. Due to much hard work in our schools this year, and with greater authority
to act on and build upon the strong foundations built by those before me, our
achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students has
decreased over the past year by 6 points in reading and 5 points in math. The gap
between Hispanic and Caucasian students has decreased by 8 points in reading
and 7 in math. One school, Lafayette Elementary School, has decreased its
achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students by 19
percentage points. In the year before I began as chancellor, 52 schools had raised
both their math and reading scores over the course of one year. Considering the
significant systemic challenges we saw, when we set our performance goals we
projected that as a district students could move that number to 57 for the next year.
They moved it to 99. 117 of our schools have increased their math scores and 110
have increased their reading scores. The number of schools with proficiency rates
below 20% has been almost cut in half, decreasing from 50 to 29. Some schools have
even doubled or tripled their average reading and math scores. While we still have
significant challenges ahead, this kind of growth shows promise for the reforms mayoral
governance has enabled.

To further these gains and decrease the achievement gap, we must continue to
increase the level of accountability for everyone in the system, including teachers.
There is no other profession that simultaneously requires the most competent and
innovative professionals and at the same time can discourage them from bringing their
gifts to our students. We must be able to significantly reward teachers who are
successful and to exit those who, even with the right supports, are unable to increase
their studentsâ academic growth. We can do this by working closely with union leaders
to create the contracts that will support these goals. When we consider the difficulty of
what we are asking teachers to do and the consequences to our children and cities for
not doing it well, it puzzles me that the issue of rewarding teachers for success rather
than seniority, is a controversial one. Quality teachers in urban districts successfully
raise student achievement levels even in the face of poverty, violence, high rates of
AIDS and other STDs, low expectations, obesity, teen pregnancy, and other issues that
enter our schools with our children. We should not be afraid to reward those who meet
the very high demands we must place upon them. Without investing in our teachers by
rewarding them in a tangible, meaningful way, we make it very difficult to attract and
retain the teachers who can close the achievement gap.

We have seen through the years that desegregation was not enough to bring
racial justice to education, which has not yet become the âgreat equalizerâ that Horace
Mann intended public education to be. As we work to become what he envisioned for
public education in this country, this year we are introducing the most dramatic and
rapid changes this system has seen since the desegregation of our schools. If there has
been one challenge I have heard most frequently since I accepted this challenge, it has
been that we are moving too quickly. But our students have been waiting since long
before 1954 for a just, challenging, and equal system of public education. With mayoral
governance under a mayor who is willing to make the education of a districtâs young
people the number one priority, we can create accountability in systems that have not
seen it before. We can support principals and teachers in setting high expectations for
students and we can ensure that they have the tools to meet those expectations. In DC
and across the country, we can deliver the public education to students that is theirs by

Thank you for your support and for your commitment to closing the achievement
gap in DC and across the country. I am happy to answer your questions.

Testimony of Arne Duncan, Chicago Public Schools
Office of Federal Legislative Affairs

⢠Chairman George Miller
⢠Members of the House Education and Labor Committee
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the Chicago Public Schools.
Let me also thank Representative Danny Davis for his longstanding leadership on a
myriad of policy issues from this committee that have benefited the Chicago Public
I would further like to thank committee members Judy Biggert and Phil Hare for their
bipartisan support and good commonsense approaches to education policy. Their work on
this committee and devotion to promoting high standards, quality teachers, and viable
school options too has benefited Chicago.
Chicago Public Schools serve over 400,000 children. 85% percent of our children live
below the poverty line. 90% are minorities. All of them have potential.

Tapping the potential of underprivileged, inner-city children represents the greatest
educational challenges facing our country.
In many ways we are meeting this challenge. In many other ways we are still falling short.

In Chicago, virtually every important indicator of progress is moving in the right
direction: test scores, attendance, and graduation rates. Weâre on a winning streak.
In 2001, less than 40 percent of our kids met state standards. Today, almost two thirds do
and more than two-thirds of our 8th graders are at or above state standards.

Our high school students are out-gaining the State of Illinois and the nation on the ACT
test that is needed for admission to college.
More and more of our high school students are taking college-level courses and more and
more of them are testing well enough to earn college credits.

On the national test comparing Chicago to other cities (NAEP) and to the nation â weâve
gone up 11 point since 2002 while the nation has gone up just 3, so weâre closing the gap.
Hispanic students scored the highest of any other big city school district on this test so
gains are being made among key subgroups as well.

We began tracking college acceptance rates three years ago and the numbers have risen
every year. Today, over half of our graduates go to college.

This progress can be attributed to a few simple strategies that we have relentlessly
pursued since the City of Chicago â under the leadership of Mayor Richard Daley â
assumed full control of the school system in 1995.

The first thing we did was end social promotions â which is the shameless practice of
passing children each year even though they are not ready â and ultimately graduating
them without the skills they need to succeed.
Before the accountability and intervention measures of NCLB, Chicago took the initiative
to hold students accountable to annual state assessments, to identify students in the most
chronically failing schools, and to provide intervention services including mandatory
summer school, after school programs, alternative schools w/ smaller class sizes and
extended day programs.

We got back to basics with our curriculum, aligning it to the state academic standards all
the way down to optional daily lesson plans. We put great emphasis on literacy with
reading coaches in schools and a daily requirement of two hours of reading time â every
school, every student, every grade, every day.
We have since expanded this approach to math and physical science and now we are
looking at the social sciences.

We began opening new schools to offer more educational options including five citywide
high school military academies ranging from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. This
past year the military academies had some of the highest attendance rates in the city. We
are looking at an Air force Academy for the fall of 2009 for students.

This fall, Chicago will also have about 75 charter schools operating among the 625
schools in our system. Some of them are single-sex high schools-- many others have
specialized areas of focus while others are simply traditional public schools operating
outside of conventional restrictions.
Almost all of them are succeeding â and they all have waiting lists with parents eager to
enroll their children in our system.
More recently, we have become even more aggressive about opening new schools â and
closing down schools that are failing.

We are one of the few districts in the country that has shut down underperforming
schools and replaced the entire school staff.
This turnaround school strategy has taken some of our lowest-performing schools and
doubled or tripled test scores within a few years.

Same kids â different teachers â new leadership and a new educational approach â and
the results are dramatic.

This is the kind of bold reform that would not be possible without the strong support of
the Mayor and local elected officials.
Superintendents all across the country envy Chicagoâs governance structure because the
buck stops with the Mayor and he stands with us in challenging the status quo, pushing
the envelope and driving change.
The fourth thing that we have done is to greatly expand learning opportunities by
investing heavily in pre-school, after school, and summer school.

The outmoded notion that schools should only operate for 6 hours a day and 180 days per
year makes no sense in an information society where success is a function of knowledge.
In an ideal world, every one of our children should be constructively engaged from birth
to age 18 â for as many hours as possible.

The last major strategy involves raising the quality of principals and teachers and this
effort includes several important dimensions.
We boosted the standards for principal selection â cutting the eligibility list in half and
challenging a new generation of school leaders to meet these higher standards.

At the same time, we are much more aggressively recruiting teachers â attracting more
than 10 resumes for every opening. A decade ago, we would get maybe two or three.
As a recent independent report from the Illinois Education Research Council confirms,
the quality of teaching â even in hard-to-staff schools is dramatically better today than a
decade ago.

Over six years, CPS has dramatically improved the quality of its teaching force.
 We have gone from just 11 national-board certified teachers to more than 860 â
with hundreds more in the pipeline.
 The percentage of teachers leaving CPS after just three years dropped from 36
percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2007.

We recognize that need to do a better job retaining quality teachers in our lowest
performing schools.

 All new teachers get a mentor, and in particularly tough neighborhoods about 300
teachers this year worked more intensely with coaches from the Chicago New
Teachers Center, with plans to expand the two-year-old program to another 30
schools this fall.

 CPS has narrowed (by 27 percent) the quality gap between CPS teachers and the
area with the highest caliber teachers, near Urbana-Champaign between 2001 and

Thanks to the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant, we worked with our teacherâs union
to introduce a pay for performance program that offers bonuses for great teachers. In fact,
the very first payouts are happening this month.
Performance-based pay for teachers will also be expanded from 10 to 20 high-need
schools this fall.

Our biggest challenges today are reforming high schools and increasing funding.

Chicago has a comprehensive high school reform effort underway that includes intensive
coaching and mentoring as well as an overhaul of the curriculum. It started in 14 schools
two years ago and expands to 45 by this fall and we expect it will yield positive results.
We have also developed a host of programs aimed at transitioning students into high
school, increasing college enrollment, raising college entrance exam scores, and
providing more coaching and counseling for high school students.

For all our progress, however, we still have a long way to go to close the achievement
gap -- and getting there requires more support from every level of government.
Our state ranks among the worst states in the country for education funding, providing
barely a third of the overall cost. Today, Chicago spends $2000 less per student than
Boston. We spend about half of what some of our suburbs spend.

We are certainly grateful for every dollar we get from Washington -- and we welcome
even more money to expand Head Start, tutoring and after-school programs.

We also appreciate the core goals of the No Child Left Behind law, including
performance transparency among subgroups and higher standards for all, but we think the
law can be improved in other ways that will advance the same goals.

Should you take up the issue of reauthorizing or reforming NCLB, we will gladly provide
more detailed comments.

I just want to thank you again for the opportunity to be here.

Testimony of Beverly L. Hall, Superintendent Atlanta Public Schools (pdf)

Atlanta Public Schools is one of 35 school districts serving the metro area. Although the City of
Atlantaâs population has remained relatively static, declining birth rates in the city have lowered
enrollment from about 60,000 students during the mid-1990s to our current level of 50,000
The racial make-up of our student body is relatively stable at 84 percent black, 9 percent white,
5 percent Hispanic and 1 percent other. Three in four of our students are approved for free or
reduced-price meals, and of these, 94 percent receive free mealsâthatâs roughly 36,000 of our
50,000 students living near or below the poverty line.
The introduction of the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in 2000 gave us a
needed, if depressing, baseline for student performance.
⢠In grade 4, 47 percent of our students met or exceeded expectations in reading,
compared with 65 percent statewide.
⢠In grade 6, 40 percent of our students met or exceeded expectations in language arts,
compared with 61 percent in the state.
⢠In grade 8, 36 percent of our students met or exceeded expectations in mathematics,
compared with 54 percent statewide.
Atlanta Public Schools trailed the state by 14 or more points in every tested subject and grade
Our students were also not performing as well as those in the state in writing. In 1999, Atlanta
fifth- and eighth-graders trailed the statewide percentage of students who met or exceeded the
standard on the state writing assessment, and two out of every three eighth-grade students did
not meet expectations.
Although graduation rates rose by 10 percentage points between 1996 and 1999, by the end of
1999 a full 40 percent of those who had entered ninth-grade four years earlier did not receive
What does APS look like today?
Using our focus on instruction and student success, proven, research-based methods and an
accountability system tailored to each school, more than eight years after initiating our
comprehensive reform agenda, I am pleased to say that the transformation initiatives are paying
⢠The district has demonstrated continued steady improvement as evidenced by
increasing test scores over time. There has been no exception to this trend since 2000.
⢠In 2008, APS students posted meaningful academic gains on the state assessments for
the eighth consecutive year. In fact, our preliminary data suggest that in all grades and
subjects tested last year, our students met or exceeded their 2007 performance.
⢠The number of APS schools making Adequate Yearly Progress continues to increase.
This year all 62 elementary schools, including our charter schools, met AYP for the first
time in history. No other large urban school district can make that claim, according to the
Council of Great City Schools. Venetian Hills Elementary, which was in Needs
Improvement status in 2002, was named a 2007 âBlue Ribbonâ school by the U.S.
Department of Educationâa total transformation.
⢠Secretary Spellings recently called APS âa model for the country,â based on our
studentsâ performance on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress. APS
was the only one of the 11 districts voluntarily participating in the Trial Urban District
Assessment to demonstrate significant, consistent improvement in all grades and test
areas since 2003. The most recent NAEP writing assessments show that Atlantaâs
scores have grown at seven times the national rate.
⢠The local donor community stands behind me and my reform efforts.
⢠Since 1999, I have implemented system-wide reform at each school level:
o Elementary: APS maintained or closed the gap with the state on 28 of 30
comparable subject area assessments, and 100 percent of our elementary
schools made Adequate Yearly Progress.
o Middle school: Transformation of all middle schools is about to launch with a
tailored strategic plan for each.
o High school: by 2012, all APS high schools will be transformed into small,
personalized learning environments focused on college and careers. Carver High
School, now the four New Schools at Carver, has experienced a 50 percent
increase in the number of neighborhood children enrolling, and the graduation
rate has jumped from 23 percent in 2003 to 66 percent in 2007. The systemâs
overall graduation rate is 68 percent which is comparable with the state and
exceeds the national average of 50 percent for students of color. The number of
students attending college in our Project GRAD target schools has increased by
400 percent.
How was this remarkable turnaround accomplished?
The impetus for change came from the business community and the Atlanta Chamber of
Commerce in the 1990s when, after realizing the direction in which the district was moving, and
the negative impact it was having on economic development, they made a conscious effort to
turn things around.
First, a coalition of business and community leaders set out to improve the caliber of those
running for school board. They did so by helping recruit candidates and holding seminars
regarding effective boardsmanship.
The second step was to hire a superintendent (for the 1999-00 school year) who was reformminded
and had a sense of what needed to be done to turn things around.
I made a comprehensive series of changes to reform the district, none of which can be
1. Reorganized central office and revised central office job descriptions and annual
staff evaluations in ways that signal (to the incumbents) that their major task is to
support school-based staff in their efforts to improve the quality of teaching and
2. Incorporated the extent to which students perform at higher performance levels
directly into central office staff and school-based staff annual evaluations,
assuring that they all focus on this ultimate outcome.
3. Did not tolerate the presence of chronically ineffective staff (at any level) who did
not, or could not, benefit from professional development.
4. Upgraded the quality of school principals through more effective recruiting,
mentoring once they were hired, and through holding them accountable for the
performance of their students. Those principals who were deemed not to be
qualified were removed from those positions. Approximately 89 percent of our
schools have gotten new principals since 1999.
5. Required the development of a district-wide Strategic Plan, as well as individual
School Achievement Plans, that required staff to specify how they were going to
address system-wide initiatives. These plans also provided a roadmap by which
supervisors could judge the progress of their staff and suggest program
6. Established mechanisms for gathering input from central office staff, principals,
teachers, and students regarding how the district was functioning and ways how
it could be improved.
7. Provided principals with the tools they needed to effectively monitor and adjust
the quality of instruction in their schools.
8. Provided schools with various forms of technology and taught staff how to use it
to improve school efficiency and/or student learning.
9. Set clear expectations for what constitutes âbest practicesâ by teachers, and
provided on-going training for teachers regarding how to meet those expectations
at the highest levels.
10. Improved the overall quality of teaching through aggressive recruiting techniques,
and the use of alternatively prepared teachers like Teach for America
11. Upgraded the quality of classroom teaching by designing and implementing (on
an on-going basis) targeted professional development
12. Introduced a variety of specific program initiatives to give staff the necessary
structure to help them address specific teaching and learning issues. These
initiatives included the Comprehensive School Reform Models, Project GRAD,
High School Learning Communities, etc.
13. Conducted, on an on-going basis, special studies to respond to areas identified
by data as problem areas. For example, data indicated weaknesses at the middle
school level, the high school level and in science. Based on these analyses
special program efforts were designed to address the weaknesses.
14. Solicited, on an on-going basis, grants and other support from outside
organizations to finance efforts that were beyond the funding that was raised
15. Provided public recognition (and bonuses) to staff in schools that were unusually
16. Taught staff at all levels (central office and in the schools) to access and use a
wide variety of data for making resource allocation decisions, and for adjusting
instruction for individual students.
17. Enhanced security operations in the schools to assure the best possible
environment for effective teaching and learning.
18. Worked, in an on-going manner, with business, civic and parents groups to gain
support for several tax levies that were used to enhance the reform efforts.
19. Elevated the professionalism and quality of the school districtâs business
functions in order to build and maintain the publicâs confidence in the district to
wisely spend and account for public tax dollars.
20. Improved the physical character of the schools, making them safer, more
functional and more attractive.
The Atlanta Public Schools hasnât claimed victory yet. We are still climbing the tough path to total
transformation, but with achievement gaps melting away and the strong support of our community,
our goal is in sight.

— A den of corporatized Standardistos
U.S. House of Representatives: Education and Labor Committee


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