EDUCATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, DISABILITY, RELIGIOUS GROUPS PROMOTE "REDEFINING ACCOUNTABILITY" TO REPLACE "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" FOCU

Forum on Educational Accountability

for further information:
Sara Robertson (202) 230-8978 Robert Schaeffer (239)
395-6773
Dr. Monty Neill (617) 335-2115
EDUCATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, DISABILITY,
RELIGIOUS GROUPS PROMOTE "REDEFINING ACCOUNTABILITY"
TO REPLACE "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" FOCUS ON TESTS AND
SANCTIONS;
CALL FOR IMPROVING STUDENT LEARNING BY BUILDING CAPACITY


Leaders of national education, civil rights, religious, disability
and children's organizations today unveiled proposals to replace
the test-based sanctions of the federal "No Child Left Behind"
(NCLB) law with means to hold states and localities accountable
for making systemic changes that improve student achievement
as well as improvements in learning as measured by multiple assessment
tools.

The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) report, Redefining
Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity,
includes nearly two dozen "fundamental reforms" in
professional development, family involvement and accountability.
The FEA recommendations are based on the principles of the Joint
Organizational Statement on the NCLB Act, now signed by 106 groups.

"There is a growing national consensus - as demonstrated
by public opinion polls - that NCLB's punitive approach undermines
its goal of high quality education for all children," explained
Reggie Felton, who works in the Advocacy and Issues Management
Section at the National School Boards Association. "Instead
of being judged against arbitrary Adequate Yearly Progress standardized
exam targets, districts and states should be held accountable
for making changes that really improve student achievement."

The FEA's proposals would relieve districts of the requirement
to spend federal grant money on transferring students to different
schools and on private tutoring firms. Instead the funds would
be used to intensify staff professional training for educators
working in low-performing schools, strengthen parent and community
involvement in school improvement, and provide literacy skills
for families that need them.

"Building the capacity of schools to effectively educate
all children and the capacity of families to support their children's
learning should be the primary federal focus," added Jan
Resseger, of the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness
Ministries. "This requires fully funding the law so that
it covers all eligible children. Anything less is immoral."

"To make these reforms possible, NCLB's system of tests
and sanctions must be replaced," said Monty Neill, Executive
Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).
"States and districts should intervene only when a school
fails to implement fundamental changes or when it does not establish
a positive trend in learning outcomes, identified using multiple
assessment measures, based on rational expectations, in a reasonable
time frame."

Joel Packer, Director of Education Policy and Practice for the
National Education Association, continued, "The proposals
in Redefining Accountability are consistent with recommendations
made recently by ten U.S. Senators in a letter to Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy.
A broad consensus on the changes that are needed in NCLB is clearly
emerging."

"It is imperative that NCLB fairly and appropriately assess
students with disabilities," said Daniel Blair, senior director
of Policy and Advocacy Services at the Council for Exceptional
Children. "We hope that significant changes that will allow
that to happen will be made in the reauthorization of NCLB. The
FEA's recommendations present a good starting point for us to
improve the assessment of students with disabilities so that
we have information about how each child is progressing individually,
as well as information about the child's achievement in relation
to the standardized scores of children without disabilities."

On Wednesday afternoon, February 21, FEA leaders will brief staff
of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
on the Redefining Accountability report recommendations. This
session will run from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in room 430 of the Dirksen
Senate Office Building and is open to the news media.

This spring, FEA will release a report on assessment alternatives,
to complement the recommendations in Redefining Accountability.

- - 3 0 - -

- the new report, Redefining Accountability is online at:

http://www.edaccountability.org/pdf/FEA-CapacityBuilding.pdf

- an Executive Summary and the Joint Organizational Statement
on NCLB with a list of signers are also posted at http://www.edaccountability.org