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State Legislators Offer Formula for Improving No Child Left Behind Act

Below is a press release summarizing the report on NCLB of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

You may access the full report at


Press Release

New report asks Congress and the administration to recognize special challenges to schools and students

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Granting states flexibility to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act will result in stronger democracy and strengthen the nation's economic future, according to a bipartisan review of the law.

A special task force of the National Conference of State Legislatures today released the results of a 10-month study that identified specific areas of the act that need to be changed if states are to guarantee that young people will learn at their full potential.

"Our bipartisan review shows that in order to reach the No Child Left Behind Act's lofty expectations, changes need to be made in the law's foundation," said NCSL President John Hurson, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. "We extend our hand to the White House and Congress and believe they will find this exhaustive, bipartisan, earnest and impartial review of the No Child Left Behind Act an opportunity to close the achievement gap in America's schools and improve education opportunities for all students."

The report lists 43 specific recommendations on ways the law can be revised to improve the quality of education for all students and close the gaps in achievement that exist in schools today.

Key recommendations of the report include:

* Remove obstacles that stifle state innovations and undermine state programs that were proving to work before passage of the act. Federal waivers should be granted and publicized for innovative programs;

* Fully fund the act and provide states the financial flexibility to meet its goals. The federal government funds less than 8 percent of the nation's education program, but the No Child Left Behind Act affects nearly all classroom activity. In addition, states ask for a Government Accountability Office review to determine the act's costs and whether it violates the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act;

* Remove the one-size-fits-all method that measures student performance and encourage more sophisticated and accurate systems that gauge the growth of individual students and not just groups of students. States believe the 100-percent proficiency goal is not statistically achievable and that struggling schools need the opportunity to address problems before losing parts of their student populations;

* Recognize that some schools face special challenges, including adequately teaching students with disabilities and English language learners. The law also needs to recognize the differences among rural, suburban and urban schools.

Task force co-chair Steve Saland, a New York state senator, noted that the idea for No Child Left Behind originated in the states, but that its restrictions stifle state innovations. "We believe the federal government's role has become excessively intrusive in the day-to-day operations of public education," he said. "States that were once pioneers are now captives of a one-size-fits-all educational accountability system."

Co-chair Minnesota State Senator Steve Kelley said using only one yardstick to judge every school's effectiveness is not practical. "To say that only one measurement can be used to judge every school's effectiveness is not practical," he said. "Our recommendations continue to hold schools accountable, but provide for a more realistic measurement method to ensure that they do."

Utah State Representative Kory Holdaway, a member of the committee and a special education teacher, said the No Child Left Behind Act conflicts with a previous law designed to help students with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. "Ignoring the contradictions between IDEA and No Child Left Behind is one of the act's worst weakness," he said. "Because the special education population is not uniformly dispersed across the states and school districts, these decisions should be made in the states, not in Washington, D.C."

Staff Chair Robin Johnson, Principle Legislative Analyst of the North Carolina Assembly, noted that the federal government only needs to look at the sport of basketball for reasons why state flexibility is a good idea. Different sized basketballs are made for various age groups in order to promote skills at each level, she said.

"We ask Congress and the administration to play ball with us and recognize that being partners with states and providing greater flexibility makes this country and our education system stronger," she said.

Task Force Members - Legislators

Senator Thomas Gaffey, Connecticut

Representative Bob Holmes, Georgia

Representative Greg Porter, Indiana

Senator John Vratil, Kansas

Delegate Nancy King, Maryland

Senator Steve Kelley, Minnesota

Senator Pam Redfield, Nebraska

Representative Neal Kurk, New Hampshire

Assemblyman Craig Stanley, New Jersey

Representative Rick Miera, New Mexico

Senator Stephen Saland, New York

Representative Phyllis Heineman, South Dakota

Representative Kory Holdaway, Utah

Representative Howard Crawford, Vermont

Delegate James Dillard, Virginia

Senator Robert Plymale, West Virgina

Task Force Members - Legislative Staff

Mark Collins, Maryland

Cathy Fernandez, New Mexico

Robin Johnson, North Carolina

Michael Kjar, Utah

Kathleen Harris, Virginia

Mabel Edmonds, Washington

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.

— National Conference of State Legislatures
Press Release


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