Reaction of Dr. Monty Neill, Executive Director of FairTest, to Pres. Bush's State of the Union Proposals

For further information:
Dr. Monty Neill (857) 350-8207
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773 President George Bush's State of the Union proposals to escalate the failing test-and-punish strategy of the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law, as outlined by a White House policy memo (http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/initiatives/print/education.html), rest on misinformation and ideologically skewed assumptions, not evidence. Pres. Bush wants to continue pursuing dead-end policies that have not improved educational quality, particularly for our nation's most vulnerable children.

The facts demonstrate that NCLB is not a success. Key independent indicators, including dropout rates, college admissions test scores, and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are unchanged or only slightly improved. Narrowing of the racial achievement gap has slowed since NCLB was implemented.

Meanwhile, the law has turned many schools into test-coaching programs, denying students the well-rounded, rich education all the nation's children deserve. The Bush administration pretends that minor changes in test scores in a few subjects is an adequate substitute for real education.

Now, the Pres. Bush proposes that all states report their NAEP results along with scores on their local tests. But the NAEP definition of "proficiency" was deemed flawed and too high by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Education. Making states look bad by comparing them to an unreasonable standard will not improve education.

Outside the Bush Administration, a broad consensus on how to overhaul NCLB is emerging, as evidence by the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, signed by more than 100 education, civil rights, religious, disability and civic groups, including FairTest. It says, "Overall, the law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement."

The recommended changes to NCLB include:

  • using multiple measures of student learning instead of single test scores;
  • expecting rates of improvement actually attained by significant numbers of real schools, replacing the "adequate yearly progress" scheme;
  • providing substantial support for building the capacity of schools to serve all students well, then holding them accountable for making improvements; and
  • increasing funding to support improvement efforts and to enable all students eligible for Title I services to receive them.

The Forum on Educational Accountability, a group working to implement the Joint Statement, will release more detailed proposals on capacity-building, assessment and accountability in the coming months.