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Reading Handwriting on the Wall, AFT Diminishes Its Cheerleading for NCLB--a Little Bit

Ohanian Comment: Of interest here is the fact that the American Federation of Teachers "helped draft" the No Child Left Behind law. Now that perfidy is coming back to bite them.

Is Feldman suggesting that teachers think the "pressure" would be okay if more money came with NCLB? There's a whole lot wrong with NCLB besides money.


Teachers nationwide are fretting about the No Child Left Behind education reform law, but not all of them are working to kill it just yet.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, said last week that it would sue the federal government, calling the law ''an unmitigated disaster.'' But as the nation's second-largest teachers union begins its annual meeting today in Washington, D.C., its president says her 1.3 million members probably will take a more conciliatory approach.

''We have to figure out ways to make the implementation good for schools and good for kids and good for teachers,'' says Sandra Feldman of the American Federation of Teachers.

Feldman acknowledged in an interview that AFT members have serious reservations about the sweeping law, including what she calls a severe lack of funding and a ''totally unworkable'' system for rating schools. But she says AFT wants to tweak the law instead of getting rid of it.

''We have, I guess, a different strategic approach about what to do about it,'' she says.

NEA officials, representing 2.7 million teachers and other school workers, announced last week that they would sue the federal government on behalf of states, school districts and educators, saying states can't be forced to pay for the expensive testing, tutoring and transfer requirements in the law.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said NEA is trying to assemble ''a coalition of the whining'' to oppose reform, but NEA General Counsel Robert Chanin said striking down portions of the law -- or the entire thing -- wouldn't get in the way of reform. He declared that the union is ''going after this law,'' calling it ''an unmitigated disaster.''

NEA President Reg Weaver delivered a blistering attack on the law during his keynote address, calling it ''a wolf in sheep's clothing'' that ''will drive inspired and experienced teachers and professionals'' from the classroom.

Signed by President Bush (news - web sites) in January 2002, the law was the result of rare bipartisan cooperation in Congress. Foremost among its requirements is a mandate that public schools test every student in math and reading in grades three through eight.

Under a strict ''adequate yearly progress'' rating system, schools in which scores for virtually all students don't improve are deemed ''in need of improvement'' and must offer free tutoring or transfers to another public school.

Although AFT helped draft the law, Feldman says she has ''big problems'' with those requirements and says AFT is working with testing experts to come up with a more realistic rating that gives schools credit for improvement.

Like NEA officials, Feldman says she is concerned that funding for the law is inadequate, a complaint echoed by congressional Democrats as the education appropriations bill was unveiled Wednesday.

''I think that our members are unhappy about the pressure being put on them without the appropriate support,'' Feldman says. ''It needs to be funded -- that really is the most difficult problem.''

— Greg Toppo
No. 2 teachers union softens stance against No Child Left Behind law
USA Today

July 10, 2003


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