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AASA Statement on the â??Beyond NCLBâ?? Report from the Aspen Commission on No Child Left Behind

Comments from Annie: This statement from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) is a gem.

Beautifully stocked with important critical statements, among my favorites is: â??If one thing was clear from the implementation of No Child Left Behind, it was that the federal government is an inefficient national credentialing body for the nationâ??s teaching force.â??

This is really good stuff.

AASA Statement on the â??Beyond NCLBâ?? Report from the Aspen Commission on No Child Left Behind

ARLINGTON, Va. â?? The American Association of School Administrators, the professional organization for school superintendents and other school system leaders nationwide, today issued the following statement on the â??Beyond NCLBâ?? report from the Aspen Commission on No Child Left Behind:

It is unfortunate that â??Beyond NCLB,â?? a report released this week by the Aspen Commission on No Child Left Behind, chose to take such a negative approach to education in the United States. It is equally unfortunate that the commission chose an approach that is â??stay the course plusâ?? and piles new requirements and new mandates on states and districts that are already overburdened with ill-advised federal directives.

Commission Co-Chair Tommy Thompson said the commission chose to â??swing for the fencesâ?? with its analysis and recommendations but, in fact, what the commission did was take their eye off the ball â?? and strike out.

The report is framed around a false choice between taking â??bold steps to accelerate progress in educationâ?? or â??jeopardizing the future of our nationâ??s children and our competitiveness in the global economy by maintaining the status quo.â?? There is no status quo. Education has been in a state of change for decades. We jeopardize our competitiveness not by failing to â??accelerateâ?? or â??take bold steps,â?? but by forgetting what we are actually good at: creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurship, innovation and creating global citizens. What we should be doing as we approach the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is focusing on children in poverty and how best to help them.

Teacher and Principal Effectiveness

If one thing was clear from the implementation of No Child Left Behind, it was that the federal government is an inefficient national credentialing body for the nationâ??s teaching force. The proposed federal standard for teacher effectiveness is an inappropriate, mathematically flawed and ill-advised additional requirement for states.

Similarly, while the increased focus on principal leadership is long overdue, the proposed standards are disconnected from the individual needs of schools and school districts. What works well in one school is not necessarily effective in another. Principals need support, not more requirements.


There is near-universal agreement that growth or progress models are the next step in accountability. The commission, however, has chosen to limit itself to a definition of growth that looks at â??trajectoriesâ?? rather than individual student growth, thus limiting the room states and districts have to develop innovative systems that will be instructionally useful. Further, the commissionâ??s claim that aspects of state accountability plans such as confidence intervals have been â??abusedâ?? is inappropriate. No testing instrument is perfectly valid or reliable and states must be permitted to take whatever means necessary to adjust for error.

Finally, it is tragic that the commission has chosen to ignore the needs of individual special education students and English language learners by advocating for the continuance of arbitrary caps that pay no heed to the IEP process, individual student needs, and school and district characteristics. Rather, the commission advocates for continuing to have the federal government determine the assessment taken by an individual child, which is in violation of the Department of Education Organization Act.

AASA believes that accountability in the United States needs to move away from coercion, sanctions and punishments and toward collaboration, authenticity and trust. Schools need to be accountable first and foremost to parents and to their communities. AASA does agree with the commission that better quality assessments and more comprehensive data systems are needed.

Choice and Supplemental Educational Services

AASA believes that Title I should focus on improving outcomes for poor children through support for schools and districts, not sanctions. This is in part because it is clear from the implementation of No Child Left Behind that choice and supplemental educational services are failed experiments. A mere one percent of eligible children used the choice option. The supplemental educational services program, while slightly more popular, was plagued with a lack of capacity on the part of states, inappropriate recruiting activities, inadequate information for parents, and no clear way to track impact, as well as finger-pointing by all involved, including federal regulators, states, providers and school districts. AASA believes that these failed experiments are certainly not entitled to the additional funding and support the commission calls for.

National Standards

Most educators agree that students in different states all need to be held to high standards. However, the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits the role of the federal government in any federal curriculum standards, and AASA retains concerns about how any voluntary national standards would be developed and implemented. In particular, while the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) is an effective measure of national educational trends, it features flawed performance levels that would be inappropriate for use in any national standards. Rather, AASA believes the focus should be on states continually improving their definitions of proficiency beyond just reading and math and including the skills needed to ensure that American students can be productive citizens in a global economy.

Increased Federal Involvement in High Schools

AASA believes that educational improvement must be done in a systemic manner rather than in isolation. The commissionâ??s recommendations regarding high schools only require more bureaucratic paperwork that shows no indication of actually helping students. Further, AASA is concerned that the recommendation for high school assessments does not reflect the inadequate federal funding for this venture. AASA remains resolute that funding for increased federal involvement in high schools should not be taken from Perkins Career and Technical Education programs, which are effective and popular with parents and educators alike. Career and technical based education has far more ability to prepare students for a global economy than increased testing ever could.


The goals behind the law currently known as No Child Left Behind â?? namely, improving achievement for all students and closing achievement gaps â?? will only come to fruition if a fundamental transformation in the law takes place and the original goals of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act are revisited. AASA encourages Congress to envision a new, more appropriate federal role in education with more accurate and instructionally sensitive accountability focused on individual students that allows state and district innovation to flourish, not wither, under increased federal mandates.

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders across America and in many other countries. AASAâ??s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. AASAâ??s major focus is standing up for public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.

— The American Association of School Administrators


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