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A Conversation on No Child Left Behind

When a policy center holds what they call a conversation about NCLB, here's who gets invited:

Guests for the Teacher Leaders Network* (supported by the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality) Conversation on No Child Left Behind

National Guests

Kevin Carey is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Education Trust, a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap for low-income and minority students. Prior to working at the Trust, he analyzed fiscal policies affecting low-income families at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and as the Assistant State Budget Director for Education in the state of Indiana. Kevin recently wrote an analysis of school funding disparities for low-income students in the 50 states, and is currently working on issues including improving teacher quality for disadvantaged students, increasing student success in higher education, and on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Anne Lewis is among the nation's most distinguished education writers. Her monthly column on Washington education politics has appeared in Phi Delta KAPPAN since the early 1980s. A former president of the national Education Writers Association, Anne's is currently writing a book about standards-based reform, in between projects for the Minority Student Achievement Network and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where she is a consultant on national education affairs, including No Child Left Behind. Her article, "Collaborative Assessment: Putting Teachers in the Driver's Seat," appeared in Teaching as a Profession (Harvard Education Press) in 2002. Article

David Lussier serves as Advisor the President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and also manages the National Board's research program. Before joining the NBPTS, David was a White House Fellow and served in the both the Clinton and Bush administrations as an Associate Director of Domestic Policy. David is a National Board Certified Teacher and taught high school history in Massachusetts, where he was named the state teacher of the year in 2000.

Hayes Mizell is the Distinguished Senior Fellow at the National Staff Development Council, where he is leading an effort by five U.S. school systems to use cutting-edge professional development practices to meet NCLB goals ahead of the 2013 deadline. From 1986-2003, Hayes was director of the Program for Student Achievement at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. A former school board member in Columbia, SC, Hayes was appointed in 1979 by President Carter as chairman of the National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children and he served in that capacity until 1982. He is a co-founder of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, and the National Coalition of Advocates for Students. Article

SECTQ Guests

Eric Hirsch is Senior Director of Policy and Partnerships at the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality. Prior to working at the Center, Eric served as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Teaching in Colorado, and as Education Program Manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He has worked with and testified to legislatures and policymakers in 25 states and presented at numerous conference about issues of teacher quality, school choice and leadership. Eric has authored more than 25 articles, reports, book chapters and policy briefs. Eric received his teacher certification in Massachusetts and his M.A. from the University of Colorado.

Mandy Hoke is a Policy Associate at the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality and the co-author of several SECTQ research and policy papers, including "Assessing and Supporting New Teachers: Lessons from the Southeast." Currently, Mandy is a lead researcher for the Center's "Leave No Teacher Unqualified" research and development project, which seeks to document and understand how states set the bar for highly qualified teachers and the capacity of high need schools to respond to the new NCLB mandates. Prior to joining the Southeast Center, Mandy taught seventh grade at a high-poverty school in Durham, North Carolina.


John Norton is moderator of the Teacher Leaders Network and editor of the TLN website. He is also a freelance education writer/editor. John was the first director of the South Carolina Center for Teacher Recruitment, where he helped create the national model Teacher Cadet program, and was later vice president for information at the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board. In 1996, he created the website MiddleWeb, and he has written extensively about middle grades reform. Among other hats, he is editor of Working Toward Excellence, the journal of the Alabama Best Practices Center.

*More than half of the members of our Teacher Leaders Network are certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Here are the topics for the Teacher Leaders Network Conversation
You can go to the site and read the articles.


Estimated total reading time: 1 hour

Key Measures of the New Law – This ASCD summary highlights, in bullet format, NCLB's requirements in the areas of testing, accountability, and teacher quality, among others.

How States Identify Highly Qualified Teachers – Read this succinct summary prepared by the Rural School and Community Trust, based on a September 2003 "revised draft guidance" from the U.S. Department of Education. It describes how states may determine which teachers are "highly qualified." For a little more discussion about the ED's struggle to get this issue resolved, read an Education Week story about the guidance memo.

Criticism of ED's Implementation of NCLB Teacher Quality Provisions – Although the Education Trust supports the U.S. Department of Education's implementation of No Child Left Behind in some areas, the group is sharply critical of ED's approach to the law's "highly qualified teacher" requirements. This press release summarizes Ed Trust's September report, which said in part: ³For the past two years, the Department has acted as if it believed accountability, alone, will bring about better achievement. The teacher quality provisions of NCLB have been at various times ignored, misinterpreted, and misunderstood.... As a result, NCLB is seen by many as an attempt to arbitrarily punish experienced teachers, instead of what it actually is – a law that embraces the central importance of those teachers in helping students learn.²

"Battles Ahead Over No Child Left Behind" – This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer (11/18) reveals some of the ambivalence among educators and school reform advocates about the federal law. Few disagree with the principles embedded in the law and implied in its Madison Avenue-style name, but, as always, the devil is in the details.

"No Child Left Behind Brings True Accountability to School Spending" – If you're curious about the perspective of Republican leaders who supported the passage of NCLB, be sure to read this op-ed article by Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio), who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce and was the lead congressional sponsor of the No Child Left Behind Act.

"Education Group Calls for Revised Law" – This New York Times story very briefly describes the campaign of Citizens for Effective Schools, an eclectic group of education and civic leaders, to revamp NCLB. CES believes "the law should focus less on punishing schools that fall short and more on prescribing specific steps that could help them improve." At the CES website, you'll find their open letter to President Bush and other NCLB information.

"Study: Test Standards Differ" – In a recent study of accountability testing programs in 14 states, researchers at the Northwest Evaluation Association found "huge differences in how much states expect their students to learn." This news story from The Oregonian notes that such "variations in difficulty are gaining national attention and importance now that the federal No Child Left Behind law requires the same sanctions for schools, no matter what state they are in, if enough students don't pass state tests...."

"Special Ed Dilemma" – Advocates say holding special ed kids to the same standards as everybody else is a step forward, but critics say it makes no sense. (The Tennessean)

"A Plea for Strong Practice" – This article by Richard Elmore (Educational Leadership, 11/03) triggered a flurry of thoughtful and passionate postings by TLN members when it appeared. Elmore, a respected Harvard researcher, details several of NCLB's serious design flaws but says it is highly unlikely "that federal policymakers will revisit NCLB before these problems percolate through the state and local structures." Elmore believes "the best solution to the problems of NCLB, in the short term and the long term, is to focus state, local, and school resources and effort on the development of strong theories and practices of school improvement." On the TLN listserv, teacher-consultant Rick Wormeli took issue with Elmore. "Elmore's article seemed like he was speaking out of two sides of his mouth – one side indicating that we had to put up with this, that it wasn't going away, and the other saying that we have to, '...work publicly on the improvement of their own practice, and engage others in powerful discourse about good instruction.'"

Special Databases

ASCD's No Child Left Behind resource page – Good general source of information, including the latest developments.

NCLB Resources at The Education Trust – The Washington-based Education Trust has been a strong proponent of No Child Left Behind (aka, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and backs up its advocacy with a great deal of research. This page at the Ed Trust website serves as an informational crossroads from which you can access much of the organization's NCLB material, including multiple resources on Adequate Yearly Progress and Teacher Quality.

Education Commission of the States NCLB resources – Many state policymakers rely on ECS for information about education trends, including NCLB developments. The ECS database includes lots of information about state-by-state actions in response to the federal law's mandates. A link at this page leads to "State Snapshots" where you can view a summary of actions taken in your home state.

AASA's No Child Left Behind resources page – Produced by the American Association of School Administrators, this page focuses on NCLB from a central office perspective.

Other Articles, Studies, Reports and Resources

A Practical Guide to No Child Left Behind – This guide for educators from the Learning First Alliance is the product of a consortium of 12 major education organizations. "The guide will help all educators speak with one voice and discuss the hows and whys of NCLB in careful, clear, bite-size pieces that will help staff members and parents understand this confusing law." The guide, presented in about a dozen segments, can be read online or downloaded in PDF or MSWord format.

The ABC's of "AYP" – This 8-page PDF file prepared by The Education Trust explains the "adequate yearly progress" requirement of No Child Left Behind in plain language – and makes Ed Trust's case that schools "are capable of meeting the expectations of the law." A more recent publication looks at the results of the first-year application of AYP in America's schools (also a PDF file - for a summary, read the press release).

Parsing the Achievement Gap – A new study from the ETS Policy Information Center presents the links between student achievement and core factors often related to students' racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic status. "This research shows that the achievement gap is not only about what goes on once kids get into the classroom; it's also about what happens to them before and after school," said Sharon Robinson, President of ETSΉs Educational Policy Leadership Institute. The study bolsters the argument of those advocates who attribute part of the achievement gap to the shortage of quality teachers in high-poverty schools.

The Alignment of NB Certification and ESEA Definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher – This PDF file prepared by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards describes the Board's efforts to encourage states to include NB certification in each state's HOUSSE regulations defining a Highly Qualified Teacher.

Guest / "NCLB: Conspiracy, Compliance or Creativity?" – "The reason the NCLB exists is simple," says Hayes Mizell in this speech to the Maryland Council of Staff Developers. "For decades, local policymakers and school officials turned a blind eye to a set of vexing problems in public education." Among educators, responses to the No Child Left Behind law fixate on conspiracy theories or the mechanics of compliance, says Mizell, Senior Distinguished Fellow at the National Staff Development Council. He challenges educators to choose a third response: Creativity. "I am speaking of creativity not in implementing the law, but rather using the law to improve teacher quality and enable all students to become academically proficient."

Guest / "A Horse Called NCLB" – "Let's be brutally honest," writes Kappan columnist Anne Lewis in this November 2002 column. "The early evidence of the impact of NCLB's test-based accountability on the states indicates that it is undermining many good policies, fostering some bad ones, and creating resentments that will not ease until better policies are developed and put in place. The growing criticism of the policies does not mean that people reject the goals of the legislation or the goals of accountability per se. Rather, the criticism stems from a realization that current standardized, high-stakes testing narrows the whole enterprise of education and could halt the development of truly significant improvements in teaching and learning."

Weighing Teaching Quality and Family Factors – In this speech at a meeting sponsored by the Education Commission of the States, Daniel Fallon, Carnegie Corporation Education Division chairman, recounts the history behind the shift away from thinking that family factors are the primary influence in a child's academic achievement to "realizing teaching quality is the primary influence."

Do Educators Really Value Teachers' Intellectual Growth? – "It's blatantly phony for us to blather on about how teachers aren't 'passing muster' in the core areas they teach," writes teacher-scholar Jo Scott Coe, "while local districts and education schools sytematically reinforce faculty under-achievement, and school boards refuse to fund faculty academic accomplishments and department management on a simple par with athletic coaching."

Phi Delta Kappan Annual Poll of Public Attitudes – As the NCLB portion of the annual Kappan poll reveals, the public is skeptical of many strategies embedded in the federal law.

"Beyond the Rock and the Hard Place" – In this Educational Leadership article (11/03), Craig Jerald of The Education Trust challenges educators to stop lamenting the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind and start holding their colleagues accountable. Good teaching will always depend on individual classroom teachers, but responsibility for it cannot be left up to individual classroom teachers, Jerald says. Teachers need a common, coherent, and specific curriculum telling them what students should have learned at the end of each grade level and at key checkpoints along the way. Jerald explores several strategies for helping to increase a culture of accountability and problem solving.

"Targeting Subgroups" – An analyst for the American Association of School Administrators argues that students with disabilities and limited English are unfairly measured under NCLB. Also see "Living (and Dying) with NCLB Tests" by testing expert James Popham, who questions whether many tests now in use are instructionally sensitive enough to detect genuine improvements. (Both from School Administrator magazine)

"In Need of Improvement" – This Education Trust report (September 2003 - PDF file) is subtitled "10 Ways the U.S. Department of Education Has Failed To Live Up to Its Teacher Quality Commitments."

"Proficiency Is Not Enough" – Respected teacher educator Carol Ann Tomlinson wrote this Education Week op-ed piece in November 2002. In her critique of NCLB, she says: "This federal legislation is a laudable advance toward equity. Its impetus to ensure that all children achieve proficiency in the foundational skills of learning is clear, and some financial support for doing so is forthcoming. It would not take much to adjust the legislation so that it also supported excellence. But for now, it does not."

Other News Stories

Education Week's "No Child Left Behind" story archive – Your best single source for the latest developments and the political battle going on behind the implementation of the law.

"Red Tape Making School Chiefs Blue" – A new survey by the non-profit group Public Agenda finds that public school superintendents and principals across the country overwhelmingly say the same thing: They support recent education reforms based on standards and accountability, but one result is they're bogged down in red tape and paperwork. The school leaders say, "Give us more freedom, remove some of the hurdles, and we can do the job." (Read the survey results.)

"No Child Left Behind: Facts and Fiction" – Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews attempts to argue down what he believes are "myths" that have arisen around NCLB, including the claim by some that "No Child Left Behind is a Republican Party plot to undermine public schools."

"A Crisis Looms for Some North Dakota Schools" – In rural sections of the United States, the federal definition of highly qualified teacher may make a growing teacher shortage worse. (Christian Science Monitor)

"Schools Chief Hits Reverse, Slams Parts of No Child Left Behind" – In early November, Oregon Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo, long a staunch supporter of the federal No Child Left Behind law, "switched gears and blasted some of the law's toughest school accountability measures as unfair and demoralizing to educators." (The Oregonian)

"No Social Problem Left Behind" – "If the politicians who enacted the No Child Left Behind law really believed it would accomplish the noble goal expressed in its title, then they clearly do not understand the daunting challenges facing our public-education system and they should not be making education policy," writes Ron Wolk, founder of Education Week and Teacher magazine, in this op-ed article from the Providence Journal.

"No Parent Left Behind" – This story from the Christian Science Monitor reports on a new interest among school leaders in forming alliances with parents, as NCLB makes school-parent communication more vital than ever.

No Teacher Left Behind? – The headline on this Christian Science Monitor story is actually "The Great Escape" but who could resist? The story reports on the dramatic attrition rate among new teachers and speculates that the implementation of No Child Left Behind will make it worse, unless improvements in teacher education and new-teacher mentoring programs are equally dramatic.

For Serious Researchers Only!

Meeting NCLB Goals for Highly Qualified Teachers: Estimates by State from Survey Data - In this paper, The Council of Chief State School Officers presents state-by-state data on the qualifications of teachers in grades 7-12. The 50-state results from the Schools and Staffing Surveys of 1994 and 2000 show the percentage of teachers in each state that are fully certified and have a major in their assigned teaching field. (Download the free report at this webpage.)

"Safe Harbor" Simulator – An online tool developed by Education Trust where numbers can be plugged in to see if your school made safe harbor. What is safe harbor? ("Even if a school doesnΉt meet the statewide goal in a given year, the school will still make AYP if it reduces the percent of students below proficient by 10% from the previous year and makes progress on the other academic indicator. Schools can also apply this safe harbor analysis to any subgroup of students that fails to meet the statewide goal.")

"No Child Left Behind: Costs and Benefits" – The promise of providing all children with a high-quality education is a noble one, says William Mathis in this Phi Delta Kappan article. But after looking at the projected costs for 10 states to fulfill the requirements of NCLB, Mathis fears that the federal government is asking too much and giving too little.

If It's All Just Too Depressing . . .
(Fresh food for thought)

Hearing the Different Drum – No Child Left Behind doesn't answer the essential question teachers need to ask, says Michael L. Umphrey. The question is this: In a nation of unprecedented material abundance, are growing numbers of children suffering from depression, addiction, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other spiritual and behavioral problems? And are there things we in the schools can do about it? Umphrey's solution is to create education-centered communities. About NCLB Umphrey says: "I don't want to oppose the act. I want to ignore it by transcending it, by doing far more than it would dare require. A good school with an exciting pedagogy that infuses students with the joy of discovery and creation has little to fear from No Child Left Behind. We are facing larger problems than one federal act." He outlines five activities for creating place-based learning environments.

Excerpt from Brief Intervals of Horrible Sanity – Elizabeth Gold's account of her teaching year in a "progressive" public school in New York City brings to mind a recent article in HeadFirst magazine titled "Purpose-Driven Schools." If we can believe Gold's account, the School of the New Millennium in Queens had purpose in name only. Gold, a poet, brought a great deal of content knowledge to her ninth grade classroom. It wasn't enough. Readers may wonder whether a better-trained, better-supported new teacher might have made a few more inroads. This thoughfful excerpt from the book's Afterword gives little comfort to status-quo educators or advocates who believe that teachers can fix all of society's woes.

"No Cow Left Behind" – This brief essay by a Vermont principal is quickly becoming a legend.

Teacher Leaders Network


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