What to say when you call your senator about NCLB

When you call your Senator to ask him to help overhaul NCLB, here are five suggested talking points, which you can deliver in 2-3 minutes:

Introduce yourself, say what city or town you are from, and tell the person you want to convey a message about No Child Left Behind.

If this Senator is on the HELP Committee say, something like: “I understand that NCLB will be ‘marked up’ and voted on in Committee this week. I am very concerned about the damage caused by NCLB and want Senator [name] to vote to make major positive changes. The Harkin-Enzi reauthorization bill, however, does not improve on NCLB.” Then use the list below.

If this Senator is not on the HELP Committee, say something like: “I understand that the HELP committee will ‘mark up’ and vote on a new NCLB in a couple of weeks. I am very concerned about the damage caused by NCLB and want Senator [name] to call the committee leaders and ask them to make major positive changes.” Then you can use these talking points:

  1. Do not require any additional standardized testing; there is already far too much. The Harkin-Enzi bill will force states to administer tens of millions of new tests, mostly to use to judge teachers and principals.   (Support your argument with examples of over-testing and test misuse at schools in your community.)
  2. Do not require the use of student test scores to evaluate educators. The Harkin-Enzi bill does requires this, but the Alexander-Isakson bill does not.  Reliance on exam results, with all their inaccuracies and fluctuations, will result in many wrong decisions: Research shows teachers classified "best" based on one year's results may be "worst" the very next year.
  3. Fund states to upgrade the quality of teacher-designed assessments. This is the best way to refocus classrooms on critical thinking and problem solving, rather than memorizing factoids and filling in multiple-choice bubbles.
  4. Hold states accountable for determining the cause of low scores at particular schools and designing/monitoring customized plans to enhance performance.  No more one-size-fits-none, top-down policies that have failed to improve educational quality or equity in the NCLB era. The Harkin-Enzi bill requires schools to use one of several models or “strategic improvements.” These should be dropped.
  5. Please read and use the recommendations of the Forum on Educational Accountability, which you can see at www.edaccountability.org.