National Urban League on NCLB

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - July 2008

Some 20 national civil rights organizations have signed the Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind, which calls for a major overhaul of the federal law, refuting claims that civil rights groups oppose fundamental changes to NCLB. Among them is the National Urban League (NUL), which also issued its own recommendations that substantially overlap with the Joint Statement. In particular, NUL says, "Replace Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) with a Comprehensive Accountability Framework that can more accurately capture student performance using multiple measures of achievement."

NUL supports doubling NCLB funding, and it calls for states to "publicly report resources available to achieve a sound and basic education for every child in every school." Further, an essay on NCLB in the NUL's 2007 State of Black America sharply criticizes the law’s consequences for African American children.

The essay by Christopher Knaus, a Lecturer in African American Studies at the University of California-Berkeley, offers three key recommendations: First, "Expansion of assessment to include multiple measures of academic success." This includes "portfolios, teacher assessments, problem solving, diagnostic feedback for students, project management, essays, oral exams, and public performance." Second, "Expanding definitions of academic skills beyond math and reading." And third, "Reengaging African-American students in the educational process."

Most of the essay details the problems that lead to the recommendations. "NCLB provides incentives to narrow education only to math and reading and creates a cycle of pseudo-improvement where scores improve based on increased instructional time on reading or math," Knaus writes. The resulting focus on test preparation intensifies African American student disengagement from school. Knaus also charges that NCLB fails to address re-segregation, pretending that parental "choice" will suffice. Further, the law ignores the social conditions in which children live that affect their schooling.

He concludes, "NCLB has not only failed (and promises to continue to fail) African-American students, but has also shifted the debate from unequal schooling to monitoring failing schools… NCLB appears to have failed in its first five years. NCLB lacks the capacity to prepare African-American students for critical engagement in shaping democratic society, encourages segregated schools, pushes students out of mainstream schools, narrows a curriculum and many African-American students already find alienating, and ignores high drop-out rates."

- The NUL policy position is on the web at (under publications).

- The State of Black America can be ordered at The Knaus essay is "Still Segregated, Still Unequal: Analyzing the Impact of No Child Left Behind on African American Students,"