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NCLB Outrages

Paige Should Fix No Child Left Behind

Good job but I wish there were less emphasis on funding NCLB. Let's not advocate throwing good money after bad.

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige has been traveling across the country, appearing before groups touting the successes of the No Child Left Behind Act. As expected, he is spending a lot of time and energy in Michigan. This past week alone, he was the opening speaker on Mackinac Island at the Detroit Regional Chamber conference, and he spoke in an event in Ann Arbor praising No Child Left Behind.

This rigid, one-size-fits-all federal mandate demands that all children meet the same level of achievement in the same amount of time, regardless of their individual differences and needs. The No Child Left Behind Act reduces kids to a test score by relying exclusively on standardized tests taken once a year to measure progress.

The law mandates that every student in the country must meet predetermined federal standards on high stakes tests with no consideration for the abilities, disabilities or differences among children and their learning styles.

An entire school is deemed failing and is punished if any one of four subgroups identified in the law does not meet those standards. The subgroups are: economically disadvantaged students, students in major racial or ethnic groups, students with disabilities and non-English speaking students.

In Michigan, funding for the things that really do work to raise achievement for all children, such as smaller class sizes and teacher training, is already strained because of our state budget crisis.

In fact, a recent report found that the National Child Left Behind law and other unfunded federal mandates are eating up billions of dollars that states need to adequately fund public education and other critical services, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. No Child Left Behind is one of the biggest unfunded mandates by the federal government to the states.

The Bush administration and Congress are not providing the aid they promised when the law was passed. For the past three budget cycles, President George W. Bush’s budget has shortchanged Michigan’s neediest children by more than $1.4 billion, and programs for students with disabilities have been under-funded by $1.1 billion.

Even preschoolers are being left behind. For fiscal year 2005, the Head Start program is estimated to be $517.1 million short of being fully funded.

The Michigan Education Association supports high standards for students, teachers and schools. The question is, will the federal government allow states any latitude to judge student success and progress?

Before U.S. Education Secretary Paige once again asserts that the No Child Left Behind Act is the last word in education reform, I would ask him to listen carefully to the thousands of complaints coming from students, parents, administrators and teachers from across the country. It is their voices that should be heard and not those of the Washington bureaucrats.

Of course, we know how the secretary deals with anyone who dares to question his brainchild — we’re referred to as terrorists.

Here is something the secretary will not talk about — Vandenberg School. You may recall that his boss, President Bush, went to Southfield and lauded the work and learning taking place at Vandenberg Elementary. A few short weeks later, it was on a list of failing schools.

What happened? The school is so good that there is not enough room for improvement on standardized tests to meet the rigid requirements of adequate yearly progress mandated in the law.

There actually are some good parts to this law. It provides funding for 12.5 million children living in high poverty areas. It also provides funding for student literacy, school technology and school safety programs. But there are also parts that must be addressed, debated and changed.

And, Mr. Secretary, tell your boss to fund our schools.

— Lu Battaglieri, president, Michigan Education Association
Detroit News


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