Education Week, January 18, 2006 By Andrew Trotter and Michelle R. Davis Washington
A coalition of school, civil rights, and child-advocacy groups handed a list of 14 recommendations for changing the federal No Child Left Behind Act to congressional staff members at the U.S. Capitol last week, just a day after President Bush vigorously defended the law on its fourth anniversary.
Revisions are needed to the ESEA legislation now in Conference Committee in order to help strengthen the effort to improve schools' capacity to educate all children well by avoiding the dangers of too much testing, unrealistic adequate yearly progress mandates, and unfeasible "corrections" and sanctions. FairTest recommends that the Conference Committee adopt the following changes:
Essential test-related elements of Bush plan: The proposals will be part of the reauthorization of ESEA (which includes Title I). States required to test all students in grades 3-8 in reading and math to measure students and schools, with reporting on progress for “disadvantaged” as well as all students. Sanctions for failure to improve include vouchers. Significant progress on state tests yields rewards for schools, with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to be the measure of state progress.
The new federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will put all schools whose students have not made "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) on state assessments into a "needs improvement" category and then if AYP is still not met enact a series of sanctions that can culminate in firing staff, state takeover, turning it over to private management, or making it a charter. (For details, see materials here as well as selected articles in FairTest Examiner.)
The key testing and accountability provisions of the new, 1000-plus page Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("No Child Left Behind Act") are in Title I, the part of the Act historically intended to improve education for "disadvantaged" children.