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Group Calls for Change in NCLB

Comment: The enemy of your enemy isn't necessarily your friend. Look at the word prescibed. One can wonder why no groups already opposing NCLB weren't invited to sign the letter. This is a matter of "stay tuned." There's just too little information here.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 With thousands of schools across the country branded in recent weeks as "needing improvement," a newly formed group of educators and civic leaders is calling on Congress to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act by discarding its stiff penalties for schools that fail to measure up.

In an open letter addressed to President Bush, Education Secretary Rod Paige and members of Congress, and in a full-page advertisement that ran in Wednesday's Roll Call, the group, Citizens for Effective Schools, said the law should focus less on punishing schools that fall short and more on prescribing specific steps that could help them improve.

The group's signers include officials of the New York Urban League and the Education Law Center of New Jersey, along with scores of teachers, principals and administrators from around the country.

Another signer is Frank Keating, the Republican former governor of Oklahoma. But Mr. Keating, who now represents the life insurance industry in Washington, said later in the day that he supported the letter's call for raising teacher quality but not its criticism of the education law.

The new law has run into opposition as school districts fully grasp its demands and consequences, particularly with state revenues at low levels. Four schools in Vermont announced last month that they would forgo the Title I money for disadvantaged schools, while a lawmaker in Utah is planning to propose that the entire state give up the federal aid rather than submit to the demands.

But others, like the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that helped write pieces of the law, have praised it as exposing educational inequities.

The law requires schools to break down test scores by race, poverty, gender, disability and ethnicity, and judges them by the progress of each group, rather than on an average score of all students.

Under the law, schools that steadily fail to show sufficient academic progress face a range of penalties, from paying for private tutoring, to transportation costs for children transfering out, to eventual firing of a school's entire staff and management.

The current law gives districts and schools great latitude in devising solutions for improving performance, but the group contends that the law should instead require failing schools and districts to take specific steps to improve the training of teachers working in the neediest schools, and to free up principals to focus on raising the quality of instruction.

Dan Langan, a spokesman for the federal Education Department, said there were "no plans to amend the law." Mr. Langan noted that nothing in the law prevented states or districts from adopting the group's recommendations, "without any changes to the federal law."

— Diana Jean Schemo
Education Group Calls for Revised Law
New York Times
http://nytimes.com/2003/10/16/education/16SCHO.html


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