Thursday, June 07, 2007

Exit Strategies: Finding the way out of Iraq and NCLB

School is out. I am done with my one credit art class and I am hoping to do a lot more posting from here on out. Thanks to all of you who have been visiting and reading, even though my posting has been sporadic this last year.

The above article appears in this month Rethinking Schools. I believe it is one of the most important articles I have run across in a long time. Read it! A quick excerpt from a very long article:

...speaking to an audience of teachers in New Hampshire last March, Clinton passionately bashed NCLB. "While the children are getting good at filling in all those little bubbles, what exactly are they really learning?" she asked. "How much creativity are we losing? How much of our children's passion is being killed?" She also denounced NCLB's supplemental tutoring sanctions which funnel federal funds to largely unregulated private providers, declaring, "This is Halliburton all over again ...We have these contracts going to these cronies who are chosen largely on a political basis, and we have nothing to show for it."

Tough words. But Clinton voted for the law in 2001. In fact she helped lay the groundwork for it by supporting two decades of summits and business roundtables that enshrined top-down standards and tests as the keys to school improvement. Clinton has blamed all NCLB's failures on mismanagement and underfunding from the Bush Administration, but when not on the stump, she admits she'll vote for reauthorizing it with vague allusion to unspecified "improvements." Maybe Clinton still thinks it "takes a village to raise a child," but so far she's mainly voted for giving them tests.

Similarly, Obama tells his audiences, "No Child Left Behind left the money behind." But he also talks about "the things that were good about No Child Left Behind," like high standards "because U.S. children will have to compete for jobs with students from countries with more rigorous schools." Obama has flirted with vouchers ("I am not close-minded on this issue.") and merit pay, declaring teachers have "got to get more pay, but there's also going to be more accountability...the accountability can't just be based on standardized test performance only, but that has to be part of the mix..."

This is not to minimize the very real differences that are certain to emerge among parties and candidates over education issues including college aid, vouchers, federal funding levels, and other matters. But the overwhelming federal education issue is NCLB and the test-and-punish regime it's imposing from Washington on every school and district in the country. The heart of any "peace proposal" to end this "war on the public schools" must be an end to the federal mandate to test every student every year in every grade from 3 to 8 and once in high school. But so far the presidential candidates don't seem to get it.

NCLB's "escalation" of testing has forced schools to give some 65 million mandated tests on top of the millions they were already giving. When the law was passed in 2002, 19 states gave annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8. Today, under federal mandate, all 50 do. Thanks to NCLB, a large, diverse K-8 school now has 240 ways to fail every year. (The number will rise if a proposal to count the new science tests passes.[1])

The tests themselves have become a major obstacle to improving struggling schools. They are not providing useful data for better instruction; they are providing junk data for bad policy or telling us what we already know: that public schools are swamped by the same inequality that exists all around them. Testing every kid every year and measuring the results against benchmarks that no real schools have ever met is not an "accountability" system. It's an enabling instrument for imposing privatizing sanctions and pushing more democratic and promising school improvement strategies to the sidelines. One activist compared NCLB's out-of-control testing plague to the difference between giving a patient a blood test and draining the patient's blood.

If the real goal was tracking the limited range of achievement progress that standardized tests can capture and spotlighting gaps among student groups, states could develop variations of the sampling techniques the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has used for years. (In fact Maryland did this until NCLB's testing requirements killed it.) Often called the "nation's report card," NAEP provides comparative data about schools and groups across states and grade levels without testing every student every year. And while there are limits and problems with NAEP, as there are with all standardized tests, the use of sampling and restrictions on using the data to impose high stakes penalties on individual students and schools suggest ways to avoid the suffocating nightmare that NCLB's adequate yearly progress system has become. (In contrast, there are those who would like to make NAEP a universal national test tied to national curriculum standards, part of what education reporter John Merrow calls a "surge strategy for NCLB" recommended by Republican candidate and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson among others.)

Rolling back NCLB's testing mandates and ending the link between test scores and punitive sanctions are the minimum but mandatory exit strategies for getting out of the NCLB mess. Yet Clinton and Obama have had little specific to say about these crucial details, even though they're both on the Senate Education Committee that's handling NCLB's reauthorization. (So far neither has responded publicly to a February letter sent by ten Democratic Senators to Education Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy declaring that, "We have concluded that the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind in their current form are unsustainable and must be overhauled significantly during the reauthorization process beginning this year." (Obama signed a similar letter in 2006.)

To be sure, other strategies will be needed to tackle the very real problems of struggling schools that NCLB has ignored or made worse. (For some specifics, see the recommendations from the Forum On Educational Accountability.) But as with Iraq, the first step toward a saner policy on NCLB is for would-be leaders to listen to the growing grassroots chorus calling on them to reverse the failing policies that helped create the mess we're in.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

No Child Left Behind leaves School District behind

I can't believe that it has been two weeks since I last posted! It will begin to be even less now that I am losing my student teacher soon. Anyway, here is a comment from an Alaskan superintendent that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News yesterday. The man makes lots of sense! Some excerpts:

There is a significant argument in the halls of Congress whether the choice facing No Child Left Behind is either to "take immediate bold steps to accelerate progress in education" or "jeopardize the future of our nation's children and our competitiveness in the global economy by maintaining the status quo."

However, I believe these are not the only two choices. Each choice ignores what public schools are actually good at: local control, creativity, collaboration, entrepreneurship, innovation and creating global citizens.

NCLB encourages teaching to the test, teaching test-taking skills and limiting curricula to the teaching of reading, math and science at the expense of civics, history, career and technical education, music, art, physical education and health, which are essential to the success of our graduates.

As Sandra Day O'Connor recently stated, "to survive as a nation, it is vital that our schools teach, and our children understand, our system of government."

In order for this to happen, our students must be engaged in the governance of our schools and in their lives before graduation.

The national curriculum standards are limited by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Local districts should decide on curricula to prepare American students to be productive citizens in a global economy.

One thing is clear, and that is, the federal government is an inefficient national credentialing body for the nation's teaching force. The proposed federal standards should be opposed as inappropriate, mathematically flawed and ill-advised additional unfunded mandates for the states.


We must move away from coercion, sanction and punishment and move toward collaboration, authenticity and trust.


We do need better quality assessments that can inform instruction as well as more comprehensive data systems. The growth model would replace arbitrary caps that ignore the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, process, individual student needs and school and district characteristics. This will allow local school boards, teachers and principals to focus seriously on the individual needs of special education students and English language learners.

It is clear that the Title I sanctions of choice and supplemental services are failed federal schemes. We should be focused single-mindedly on improving learning for all children but especially for those with the greatest needs.

This requires more support, not sanctions. A mere 1 percent of eligible students have ever used the choice options. The supplemental Education Services program, while slightly more popular, has been plagued with lack of capacity, inappropriate recruiting, inadequate information, no clear method to track impact and lots of finger-pointing by everyone involved.

Failed experiments should be discontinued, not rewarded with additional funding and support. Title I sanctions should be dropped entirely.

I oppose increased federal involvement in high school assessments. It is inappropriate to take money from Career and Technical Education programs (Carl Perkins grants) to pay for additional high school assessments, and thus require high schools to do more bureaucratic paperwork without any indication it will actually help student learning.

Current funding for CTE is inadequate even though these programs are effective, popular and have far more ability to prepare students for a global economy than increased testing ever could.

In conclusion, Congress should amend NCLB to allow a more appropriate federal role in education with accurate and instructionally sensitive accountability focused on individual student learning.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In the No Child Left Behind Shuffle You Can't Tell the Players with a Program

From Gerald Bracey come this view of some of the players in the NCLB drama...

n the surface, the No Child Left Behind law reflected an orgy of bi-partisanship, passing Congress 487-48. In January, 2002, President Bush eschewed the usual Rose Garden fanfare and flew to Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Ohio where he signed the bill flanked by George Miller (D-Ca.), Teddie Kennedy (D-Ma.), Judd Gregg (R-Vt.), and John Boehner (R-Oh.) (Hamilton is in Boehner's district; in addition, Boehner had tried on six separate occasions to get vouchers back into the bill).

At this ceremony, less than three months after 9/11, the applause Bush received was described as "deafening." Later in the day, Bush went with Kennedy and Gregg to related celebrations in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Fissures in the unanimity façade soon appeared. The bill was not two weeks old when Democrats attacked it as underfunded. "It's really a 'left no money behind for education budget'" groused Miller. Kennedy said Bush had betrayed him.

Now, with the law up for reauthorization, the cracks that were there all along have widened as various posses ride off in all directions, including some surprising ones. Miller, who, I am told, is a real hardass on school accountability, wants to reauthorize the bill with little or no change. Bush and Ed. Secretary Spellings have forcefully argued for reauthorization although it is not clear how strong their voices will be when push comes to shove.

Other players include the Chamber of Commerce and the Center for American Progress whose unholy alliance was discussed in my blog "The Center for American Progress: Progressively Regressive?" At the Center, education is honchoed by Cindy Brown, a steering committee member on the Chapter 1 Commission that reported out in 1992. That report essentially described NCLB without all the punitive specifics. But it was all there--adequate yearly progress, results-based accountability, choice, closing or restructuring low-performing schools, etc. It just sat there waiting for Bush adviser Sandy Kress and Spellings with the help of Education Trust head, Kati Haycock, to put the nasty touches on it (In a recent interview with Education Next, Kress thanked the Trust for being such a courageous ally). Haycock was also on the steering committee of the Chapter 1 Commission. While 9 of the 28 members filed minority dissents, Haycock and Brown were not among them.

On a path that might be either tangential, parallel or orthogonal to NCLB, is a bill by Chris Dodd and Vernon Ehlers that would establish national standards in reading, math and science and then require the National Assessment Governing Board, a gang that has never shot straight on standards in the past, to develop tests to measure the standards. These tests would replace the state-developed tests now in use. Everything would be "voluntary," of course.

On February 15, 2007, ten Democratic Senators, led by Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, wrote to Kennedy and other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee that while they support school accountability, "We have concluded that the testing mandates of No Child Left Behind in their current form are unsustainable and must be overhauled significantly during the reauthorization period beginning this year." They offered a series of changes to make the law more "sensible."

The most surprising development--certainly to Bush--is the revolt by 57 members of the House and Senate. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), a longtime opponent introduced a bill that would let states opt out of many of the testing provisions, something that on the surface would appear to render the Dodd-Ehlers bill moot. "So many people are frustrated with the shackles of NCLB," said Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C). House Minority Whip, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who voted for the law first time around now opposes it because, he said, it shifted "control of public schools to the federal government more dramatically than he ever imagined."

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye, the Washington Post's Amit Paley wrote "In an unusual show of bipartisan cooperation, Democrats and the White House attacked the GOP critics' legislation." Paley quoted Miller, "Rather than work with us in a constructive way to improve this law, this group of Republican lawmakers is trying to dismantle it." California scores at or near the bottom on NAEP tests. Does Miller truly believe NCLB will do something about that?

Fordham Foundation's Mike Petrilli, at the Department of Education when the law was first enacted said "Republicans voted for NCLB holding their noses. But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience." (How Bush must envy Putin these days; in their race to see who will be the 21st century's tsar, it's no contest).

Hoekstra's bill sent Washington Post editors howling: "The proposal would let the states choose whether to meet federal testing mandates--and, incredibly, allow them to tap into millions of dollars of federal education money without ever having to show any results" (hey, just like the Supplemental Educational Services providers do now). That the New York Times didn't emit a similar squeal can only mean that Brent Staples is on vacation.

Fasten your seat belts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act

This is a little old but it is important, especially since both the NEA and AFT have signed up for it. Personally I would still just like to get rid of it or as the some republicans said the other day, just allow states to opt out, (but without the choice provisions...

The undersigned education, civil rights, children's, disability, and citizens' organizations are committed to the No Child Left Behind Act's objectives of strong academic achievement for all children and closing the achievement gap. We believe that the federal government has a critical role to play in attaining these goals. We endorse the use of an accountability system that helps ensure all children, including children of color, from low-income families, with disabilities, and of limited English proficiency, are prepared to be successful, participating members of our democracy.

While we all have different positions on various aspects of the law, based on concerns raised during the implementation of NCLB, we believe the following significant, constructive corrections are among those necessary to make the Act fair and effective. Among these concerns are: over-emphasizing standardized testing, narrowing curriculum and instruction to focus on test preparation rather than richer academic learning; over-identifying schools in need of improvement; using sanctions that do not help improve schools; inappropriately excluding low-scoring children in order to boost test results; and inadequate funding. 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.

Recommended Changes in NCLB

Progress Measurement

1. Replace the law's arbitrary proficiency targets with ambitious achievement targets based on rates of success actually achieved by the most effective public schools.

2. Allow states to measure progress by using students' growth in achievement as well as their performance in relation to pre-determined levels of academic proficiency.

3. Ensure that states and school districts regularly report to the government and the public their progress in implementing systemic changes to enhance educator, family, and community capacity to improve student learning.

4. Provide a comprehensive picture of students' and schools' performance by moving from an overwhelming reliance on standardized tests to using multiple indicators of student achievement in addition to these tests.

5. Fund research and development of more effective accountability systems that better meet the goal of high academic achievement for all children.


6. Help states develop assessment systems that include district and school-based measures in order to provide better, more timely information about student learning.

7. Strengthen enforcement of NCLB provisions requiring that assessments must:

  • Be aligned with state content and achievement standards;
  • Be used for purposes for which they are valid and reliable;
  • Be consistent with nationally recognized professional and technical standards;
  • Be of adequate technical quality for each purpose required under the Act;
  • Provide multiple, up-to-date measures of student performance including measures that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding; and
  • Provide useful diagnostic information to improve teaching and learning.

8. Decrease the testing burden on states, schools and districts by allowing states to assess students annually in selected grades in elementary, middle schools, and high schools.

Building Capacity

9. Ensure changes in teacher and administrator preparation and continuing professional development that research evidence and experience indicate improve educational quality and student achievement.

10. Enhance state and local capacity to effectively implement the comprehensive changes required to increase the knowledge and skills of administrators, teachers, families, and communities to support high student achievement.


11. Ensure that improvement plans are allowed sufficient time to take hold before applying sanctions; sanctions should not be applied if they undermine existing effective reform efforts.

12. Replace sanctions that do not have a consistent record of success with interventions that enable schools to make changes that result in improved student achievement.


13. Raise authorized levels of NCLB funding to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that states and districts will incur to carry out these recommendations, and fully fund the law at those levels without reducing expenditures for other education programs.

14. Fully fund Title I to ensure that 100 percent of eligible children are served.

We, the undersigned, will work for the adoption of these recommendations as central structural changes needed to NCLB at the same time that we advance our individual organization's proposals.

  1. Advancement Project
  2. American Association of School Administrators
  3. American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)
  4. American Association of University Women
  5. American Baptist Women's Ministries
  6. American Counseling Association
  7. American Dance Therapy Association
  8. American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA)
  9. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  10. American Humanist Association
  11. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  12. Americans for the Arts
  13. Annenberg Institute for School Reform
  14. Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  15. ASPIRA
  16. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
  17. Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
  18. Association of Education Publishers
  19. Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO)
  20. Big Picture Company
  21. Center for Community Change
  22. Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking
  23. Center for Parent Leadership
  24. Children's Aid Society
  25. Children's Defense Fund
  26. Church Women United
  27. Coalition for Community Schools
  28. Citizens for Effective Schools
  29. Council of Administrators of Special Education, Inc.
  30. Coalition of Essential Schools
  31. Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
  32. Communities for Quality Education
  33. Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders
  34. Council for Exceptional Children
  35. Council for Hispanic Ministries of the United Church of Christ
  36. Council for Learning Disabilities
  37. Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform
  38. Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  39. Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
  40. Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children (DLD/CEC)
  41. Education Action!
  42. Episcopal Church
  43. Every Child Matters
  44. FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing
  45. Forum for Education and Democracy
  46. Hmong National Development
  47. Institute for Language and Education Policy
  48. International Reading Association
  49. International Technology Education Association
  50. Japanese American Citizens League
  51. Learning Disabilities Association of America
  52. League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  53. Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic justice of the United Church or Christ
  54. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  55. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF)
  56. National Alliance of Black School Educators
  57. National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education (NAAPAE)
  58. National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
  59. National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA)
  60. National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities (NAEAACLD)
  61. National Association of Pupil Service Administrators
  62. National Association of School Psychologists
  63. National Association of Social Workers
  64. National Baptist Convention, USA (NBCUSA)
  65. National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
  66. National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE)
  67. National Conference of Black Mayors
  68. National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP)
  69. National Council for the Social Studies
  70. National Council of Churches
  71. National Council of Jewish Women
  72. National Council of Teachers of English
  73. National Education Association
  74. National Federation of Filipino American Associations
  75. National Indian Education Association
  76. National Indian School Board Association
  77. National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
  78. National Mental Health Association
  79. National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA
  80. National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
  81. National Reading Conference
  82. National Rural Education Association
  83. National School Boards Association
  84. National School Supply and Equipment Association
  85. National Superintendents Roundtable
  86. National Urban League
  87. Native Hawaiian Education Association
  88. Network of Spiritual Progressives
  89. People for the American Way
  90. Presbyterian Church (USA)
  91. Progressive National Baptist Convention
  92. Protestants for the Common Good
  93. Rural School and Community Trust
  94. Service Employees International Union
  95. School Social Work Association of America
  96. Social Action Committee of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
  97. Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  98. Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  99. Stand for Children
  100. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
  101. United Black Christians of the United Church of Christ
  102. United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
  103. United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
  104. USAction
  105. Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
  106. Women of Reform Judaism

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Center May Not Hold for NCLB

From US New and World report comes this is good news, at least I think it's good news...

Five years ago, after then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay entered his first vote for President Bush's No Child Left Behind bill, he went on Rush Limbaugh's radio program and apologized.

"I'm ashamed to say it was just blatant politics," he said. "I can't even remember another time I've actually voted against my principles." (He eventually voted against the final bill.)

Today, Bush's signature education law is up for renewal, but Republican loyalty like DeLay's will be harder to come by. Rep. Roy Blunt, the new No. 2 Republican in the House, yesterday joined a group of 57 GOP lawmakers in a revolt. Sens. Mel Martinez and Jon Kyl, the chairs of the Republican National Committee and the Senate Republican Conference, also signed on. Like DeLay, both Blunt and Kyl had supported the law in 2001.

What's changed?

"Bush had a lot of political capital then," says Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association. "Now, I think [these Republicans] are all feeling–I'd use the word liberated."


But the mutiny is against more than Bush. It is also against the law itself. In just five years, the law has transformed public education, giving the federal government more say over what and how children learn than perhaps ever before. To maintain federal funding, all levels have had to change practice: States have had to develop detailed math and reading standards for third through eighth grade, teachers have had to devote weeks of their school year to testing those standards, and schools have had to live by the tests' consequences, facing sticks like forced restructuring or mandatory after-school tutoring if their students don't perform.

Worse yet for Bush, Democrats, the new majority party on Capitol Hill, are also skeptical.

Sending a letter pleading for more flexibility to his Democratic colleagues, Sen. Russ Feingold cited his state of Wisconsin.

"There is growing frustration around the country about NCLB," he said. "It is our responsibility to ensure that those voices are heard."


Yesterday's concessions have become today's stubborn demands for reform. Some Republicans, like Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, want to hand control of education back to the states and add in private-school vouchers, opportunities to send kids in low-performing public schools to private school on the federal government's dime. Should Congress continue with NCLB, Hoekstra said yesterday in introducing new legislation, "we will soon have federal government schools."

Democrats, meanwhile, have focused their complaints once again on funding and testing. Sen. Christopher Dodd, with the strong support of the National Education Association, is now working on a bill that would inject significant flexibility into the law, probably at the cost of the strict accountability definitions the Bush administration and the Senate's Democratic leadership support. Nine Democratic senators joined Feingold in his letter last month, outlining concerns about insufficient funding and excessive mandates...

One can only continue to hope.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Oversight Is Set for Beleaguered U.S. Reading Program

In the, we can only hope that something good will come from this department, come this from the NYT...

WASHINGTON, March 14 — Under attack for improprieties uncovered in its showcase literacy program for low-income children, the Department of Education will convene an outside advisory committee to oversee the program, known as Reading First, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Wednesday...

One can only wonder what that will look like...

After Ms. Spellings left the hearing, Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University, whose Success for All reading program was shut out of many states under Reading First, said he did not think the secretary’s promises went far enough. “I haven’t seen the slightest glimmer of even intention to change,” Dr. Slavin said.

Because schools had already chosen their readng curriculums, promises to clean up Reading First now meant little, he said. He compared them to finding eight innings into a baseball game with a score of 23 to 0 that the opposing team had been playing with cork bats.

“Then they say, ‘From now on, we’re using honest bats.’ ” Dr. Slavin said. “I’m sorry, it’s 23 to nothing. You can’t just say, ‘From now on.’ ”


With only two Education Department employees in charge of the vast program, the administration relied largely on private contractors to advise states on their applications for grants, screen products for scientific validity and weigh applications. The inspector general found that several of these contractors wrote reading programs and testing instruments that were competing for money, and that they gave preference to products to which they had ties.

Ms. Spellings has maintained, and said again under questioning Wednesday, that the problems with Reading First occurred before she became education secretary.

She denied accusations from a former political appointee at the department, Michael Petrilli, who said she had essentially run Reading First from her post as domestic policy adviser at the White House...

We will wait and see...

Dozens in GOP Turn Against Bush's Prized 'No Child' Act

From WaPo

More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate -- including the House's second-ranking Republican -- will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates...

But read further to find the real motivation...

Under Hoekstra's bill, any state could essentially opt out of No Child Left Behind after one of two actions. A state could hold a referendum, or two of three elected entities -- the governor, the legislature and the state's highest elected education official -- could decide that the state would no longer abide by the strict rules on testing and the curriculum.

The Senate bill is slightly less permissive, but it would allow a state to negotiate a "charter" with the federal government to get away from the law's mandates.

In both cases, the states that opt out would still be eligible for federal funding, but strictures...

Did you catch that, they would opt out and under the senate bill they could "negotiate a 'charter,'" sounds like a sneaky way to privitization? And what exactly does, "those states could exempt any education program but special education from No Child Left Behind" mean? But there is more...


"So many people are frustrated with the shackles of No Child Left Behind," DeMint said. "I don't think anyone argues with measuring what we're doing, but the fact is, even the education community . . . sees us just testing, testing, testing, and reshaping the curriculum so we look good."

We certainly agree with that!


Republican lawmakers involved in crafting the new legislation say Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other administration officials have moved in recent days to tamp down dissent within the GOP. Since January, Spellings has met or spoken with about 40 Republican lawmakers on the issue, said Katherine McLane, the Education Department's press secretary.

"We've made a lot of progress in the past five years in serving the children who have traditionally been underserved in our education system," McLane said. "Now is not the time to roll back the clock on those children."

But so far, the administration's efforts have borne little fruit, Republican critics said.

"Republicans voted for No Child Left Behind holding their noses," said Michael J. Petrilli, an Education Department official during Bush's first term who is now a critic of the law. "But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience."

It all gets curiouser and curiouser.

Guatemalan Teachers: No Privatization

What will happen in the US when this happens here? I wonder...

Guatemala, Mar 14 (Prensa Latina) Teachers took to the streets of Guatemala City on Wednesday to demand socioeconomic improvements and protest government plans to privatize education.

At least 10,000 teachers took part in the largest demonstration of the year, staged from the Ministry of Education to the Congress of the Republic.

Union leader Hugo Efrain Bareda described a government-promoted Education Reform bill currently under discussion in Congress as a violation of the Constitution.

Romualdo Maldonado, from the teachers union in western Quetzaltenango, said the education reform is part of neoliberal measures to curb the State s role.

Guatemala has about 90,000 state teachers in the 17,000 public schools countrywide.

State teachers have declared themselves in permanent assembly and threatened new steps if the government fails to back down from its neoliberal, privatizing program.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'No Child' target is called out of reach


"There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percent target," said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. "But because the title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid to change this completely unrealistic standard. They don't want to be accused of leaving some children behind."
...critics face an uphill challenge because of the rhetorical power of the argument for a universal proficiency target and a deadline. Anything less, advocates say, will hurt children, especially society's most vulnerable: poor and minority students.


President Bush is pushing this year for reauthorization of one of his top domestic programs. In a joint House-Senate hearing yesterday, senior Democrats and Republicans said they would work toward renewal of the law. But in interviews in the days before the hearing, some key lawmakers said that universal proficiency is all but impossible to meet.

"The idea of 100 percent is, in any legislation, not achievable," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate education committee. "There isn't a member of Congress or a parent or a student that doesn't understand that."

Kennedy added that the law's universal proficiency standard served to inspire students and teachers. But "it's too early in the process to predict whether we'll consider changes" to the 2014 deadline, he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. education secretary and supporter of the law, said Americans don't want politicians to lower standards.

"Are we going to rewrite the Declaration of Independence and say only 85 percent of men are created equal?" Alexander asked. "Most of our politics in America is about the disappointment of not meeting the high goals we set for ourselves."


...testing experts say there are vast academic differences among children of the same racial or socioeconomic background. Countries with far less racial diversity than the United States still find wide variations in student performance. Even in relatively homogenous Singapore, for example, a world leader in science and math tests, a quarter of the students tested are not proficient in math, and 49 percent fall short in science.

"Most people are afraid that once you acknowledge this variation, then you have to tolerate major inequities between black and white students," said Daniel Koretz, a Harvard University education professor. "That's not necessarily true, but that's why the political world does not really address the issue."

Although no major school system is known to have reached 100 percent proficiency, Education Department officials pointed to individual schools across the country that have reached the standard as evidence that it is possible. In Virginia, schools have achieved universal proficiency on reading and math tests 45 times since 2002, officials said.

The only school they cited in the Washington region as having met that mark was the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, a regional school with selective admissions. Principal Evan M. Glazer said his school, which has an elite reputation, was hardly a representative example. On whether the nation can replicate that success, Glazer said: "I don't think it's very realistic."

Fairfax County School Superintendent Jack D. Dale said it was "absurd" to expect total proficiency, especially when federal officials require immigrant children who have been in U.S. schools for little more than a year to meet the standard. His 164,000-student system, the largest in the Washington region, is sparring with the Education Department over the immigrant testing rule.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Education at Risk

This is a long and important article from Edutopia. Please read the whole thing but here are my excerpts...

Nearly a quarter century ago, "A Nation at Risk" hit our schools like a brick dropped from a penthouse window. One problem: The landmark document that still shapes our national debate on education was misquoted, misinterpreted, and often dead wrong...

In short, it's never really a choice between supporting or rejecting school reform. It is, or should be, a choice between this reform and that reform. Yet today, a movement that stretches back several decades has narrowed us down to a single set of take- 'em-or-leave-'em initiatives. How did this happen?

Well, it didn't "just happen." What we now call school reform isn't the product of a gradual consensus emerging among educators about how kids learn; it's a political movement that grew out of one seed planted in 1983. I became aware of this fact some years ago, when I started writing about education issues and found that every reform initiative I read about -- standards, testing, whatever -- referred me back to a seminal text entitled "A Nation at Risk."

Naturally, I assumed this bible of school reform was a scientific research study full of charts and data that proved something. Yet when I finally looked it up, I found a thirtypage political document issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, a group convened by Ronald Reagan's secretary of education, Terrell Bell.


In this anxious context, Bell put together an eighteenmember commission to report on the quality of education in America. Through the U.S. Department of Education's

National Commission on Excellence in Education, he hoped to link the country's economic woes to the state of our schools. Bell got all he wanted and more.

When the report was released in April 1983, it claimed that American students were plummeting academically, that schools suffered from uneven standards, and that teachers were not prepared. The report noted that our economy and national security would crumble if something weren't done. But the sobering report received immediate publicity for an almost comically accidental reason. As commission member Gerald Holton recalls, Reagan thanked the commissioners at a White House ceremony for endorsing school prayer, vouchers, and the elimination of the Department of Education. In fact, the newly printed blue-cover report never mentioned these pet passions of the president. "The one important reader of the report had apparently not read it after all," Holton said. Reagan had pulled a fast one, for political gain.

Reporters fell on the report like a pack of hungry dogs. The next day, "A Nation at Risk" made the front pages.

In truth, "A Nation at Risk" could have been read as almost any sort of document. Basically, it just called for "More!" -- more science, more math, more art, more humanities, more social studies, more school days, more hours, more homework, more basics, more higher-order thinking, more lower-order thinking, more creativity, more everything.

The document had, however, been commissioned by the Reagan White House, so conservative Republicans controlled its interpretation and uses. What they zeroed in on was the notion of failing schools as a national-security crisis. Republican ideas for school reform became a charge against a shadowy enemy, a kind of war on mediocrity.


From the start, however, some doubts must have risen about the crisis rhetoric, because in 1990, Admiral James Watkins, the secretary of energy (yes, energy), commissioned the Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico to document the decline with some actual data.

Systems scientists there produced a study consisting almost entirely of charts, tables, and graphs, plus brief analyses of what the numbers signified, which amounted to a major "Oops!" As their puzzled preface put it, "To our surprise, on nearly every measure, we found steady or slightly improving trends."

One section, for example, analyzed SAT scores between the late 1970s and 1990, a period when those scores slipped markedly. ("A Nation at Risk" spotlighted the decline of scores from 1963 to 1980 as dead-bang evidence of failing schools.) The Sandia report, however, broke the scores down by various subgroups, and something astonishing emerged. Nearly every subgroup -- ethnic minorities, rich kids, poor kids, middle class kids, top students, average students, low-ranked students -- held steady or improved during those years. Yet overall scores dropped. How could that be?

Simple -- statisticians call it Simpson's paradox: The average can change in one direction while all the subgroups change in the opposite direction if proportions among the subgroups are changing. Early in the period studied, only top students took the test. But during those twenty years, the pool of test takers expanded to include many lower-ranked students. Because the proportion of top students to all students was shrinking, the scores inevitably dropped. That decline signified not failure but rather progress toward what had been a national goal: extending educational opportunities to a broader range of the population.


Which approach will actually improve education? Here, I think, language can lead us astray. In everyday life, we use reform and improve as synonyms (think: "reformed sinner"), so when we hear "school reform," we think "school improvement." Actually, reform means nothing more than "alter the form of." Whether a particular alteration is an improvement depends on what is altered and who's doing the judging. Different people will have different opinions. Every proposed change, therefore, calls for discussion.

The necessary discussion cannot be held unless the real alternatives are on the table. Today, essentially three currents of education reform compete with each other. One sees inspiration and motivation as the keys to better education. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What will draw the best minds of our generation into teaching? What will spark great teachers to go beyond the minimum? What will motivate kids to learn and keep coming back to school?

In this direction lie proposals for building schools around learners, gearing instruction to individual goals and learning styles, pointing education toward developing an ever-broader range of human capacities, and phasing in assessment tools that get at ever-subtler nuances of achievement. Overall, this approach promotes creative diversity as a social good.

A second current, the dominant one, sees discipline and structure as the keys to school improvement. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What does the country need, what must all kids know to serve those needs, and how can we enforce the necessary learning?" In this direction, the curriculum comes first, schools are built around the curriculum, and students are required to fit themselves into a given structure, controlled from above. As a social good, it promotes national unity and strength. This is the road we're on now with NCLB.

A third possible direction goes back to diversity and individualism -- through privatization, including such mechanisms as tuition tax credits, vouchers (enabling students to opt out of the public school system), and home schooling. Proponents include well-funded private groups such as the Cato Institute that frankly promote a freeenterprise model for schooling: Anyone who wants education should pay for it and should have the right to buy whatever educational product he or she desires.

What's Next?

Don't be shocked if NCLB ends up channeling American education into that third current, even though it seems like part of the mainstream get-tough approach. Educational researcher Gerald Bracey, author of Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered, writes in Stanford magazine that "NCLB aims to shrink the public sector, transfer large sums of public money to the private sector, weaken or destroy two Democratic power bases -- the teachers' unions -- and provide vouchers to let students attend private schools at public expense."

Why? Because NCLB is set up to label most American public schools as failures in the next six or seven years. Once a school flunks, this legislation sets parents free to send their children to a school deemed successful. But herds of students moving from failed schools to (fewer) successful ones are likely to sink the latter. And then what? Then, says NCLB, the state takes over.

And there's the rub. Can "the state" -- that is, bureaucrats -- run schools better than professional educators? What if they fail, too? What's plan C?

NCLB does not specify plan C. Apparently, that decision will be made when the time comes. But with some $500 billion per year -- the sum total of all our K-12 education spending in this country -- at stake, and with politicians' hands on all the levers, you can be pretty certain the decision will not be made by those whose field of expertise is learning. It will be made by those whose field of expertise is power.

There's Always Money For War

Jared Bernstein makes nothing but sense...

Okay, this is going to sound really naïve. It’s the kind of question you’d expect from an earnest, if not slightly annoying, 12-year-old, not from a hard-boiled wonk like yours truly. But why is it that our representatives can easily raise endless amounts of money for war, but can’t adequately fund human needs?

Exhibit #1: The Washington Post recently ran an important article documenting the loss of child-care subsidies to low-income, working parents. One of the lessons from welfare reform is that such work supports are a critical component of a pro-work, anti-poverty agenda. But because the program is terribly underfunded—fewer than a fifth of eligible people receive help—there’s a huge waiting list, and families are left to give up on work or patch together less-than-desirable child-care situations.

Exhibit #2 : If the president gets his way on budget requests over the next few years, and he always has, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that spending on the Iraq war will soon top $500 billion—$746 billion if you throw in Afghanistan. According to OMBWatch, the Congress will soon begin evaluating the largest supplemental funding bill ever requested by an administration: just shy of $100 billion, mostly for the war on terror and its sundry components.

Exhibit #3 : We currently spend about $5 billion a year at the federal level on the block grant that funds child care. Last year, we added a $1 billion increase over five years. A bill to dedicate $6 billion more died in the Senate. Because these values are not adjusted for either inflation or population growth, the demand for child-care slots is outpacing capacity. According to the Bush administration’s own budget, if we fail to devote more resources to child care, by 2010, the families of 300,000 fewer children will get the help they need.

Exhibit #4 : I recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the question of whether there needed to be $8 billion worth of tax cuts to businesses to offset the impact of the federal minimum wage increase. I argued that the cuts were unnecessary, but in this context, consider this point: Because tax cuts must now be paid for, the committee was able to come up with $8 billion of offsets to pay for these cuts.

In other words, when they want to, Congress can allocate or raise money. The problem, as put by my colleague Lawrence Mishel, is “... the direct consequence of maintaining other priorities. Some [policy makers] are wedded to maintaining the recent tax cuts. Many more believe we have to spend whatever it takes for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ... [o]thers believe that moving toward a balanced budget is essential. Whatever one thinks of these positions it is clear that the result is that human capital investments get the leftover fiscal scraps.”

For those of us unhappy with this state of affairs, who believe that these are the wrong priorities, the big—giant, really—question is what has to change?

The answer, I think, comes from a meeting of top-down and bottom-up. Today’s priorities are the result of politicians’ perceptions that their constituents, at least the ones they care about, want government to wage war and cut taxes, not to provide child and health care. Thus, the first step in turning this around is to tap and nurture demand among the electorate for the best solutions to the problems we face. I’ve stressed child care for low-income workers because it’s so important to their ability to escape poverty, but think of national health care in this light, along with retirement security and the inequalities associated with globalization.

Progressive policy advocates need to shape and promote an agenda that reaches people on these issues and is at the scale of the challenges they face. If such an agenda is articulated by a 2008 candidate, it may well start to resonate and reverberate in precisely the way that’s needed to reshape the priorities of those who hold the purse strings. Then I can go back to being a hard-boiled wonk instead of a naïve ingénue who wants to trade guns for butter.

Tell Me This Isn't How NCLB Plays Out

God, I hope Tom Hoffman is not right on this ...

  • now - 2008: no change.
  • 2008: Democrats take the presidency and increase their majorities in the House and Senate.
  • 2009: Democrats pass NCLB reform which increases funding but also vastly increases complexity and cost. Republicans vote against it for "watering down" parts of the law that were completely impossible and/or nonsensical from the beginning.
  • 2010: Republicans hang the increasingly unpopular NCLB around the Democrats neck and run against it and teachers unions and in favor of Federalism and re-establishing local control (and charter schools & vouchers).

Monday, March 12, 2007


From the Chicago Defender comes this reasoned commentary...

The Commission on No Child Left Behind does not tell America what it really needs to know: Is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) working? If it isn't working, will it succeed by the 2014 deadline? The answers to both of these questions, unfortunately, are no...

...Many people who care about improving American education want to save NCLB. It is rare for an administration to do more than merely talk about improving education, and never before has the country focused on the real problem of the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Many people probably believe that it would be a shame to loose this unique opportunity for national educational reform. But what is the point of saving legislation that is not working and that is fundamentally flawed?

The problem with NCLB is that out of the smorgasbord of educational reforms, the Bush Administration selected the ones which suit its conservative ideology best, not the ones that educational researchers have shown to be most likely to succeed and produce the biggest achievement gains.

NCLB's heart is an accountability-based reform, but this type of reform has a weak track record. A review of accountability reforms published in the American Journal of Education last year concluded that NCLB's chances were "neutral at best." Why is such a monumental educational initiative centered on one of the least promising policies?

An effective national educational reform program should begin by expanding pre-kindergarten programs like the successful one now operating in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This program has produced significant gains for Hispanic and black children. There is a large body of research showing the benefits of quality early childhood education.

The commissioners agree and state that "half of the white-African American achievement gap in 12th grade can be explained by the gaps in achievement in 1st grade." NCLB, however, does little in the area of early childhood education. Because the commissioners are trapped within the NCLB framework, they too marginalize the issue of early childhood education and relegate their discussion of it to one-third of the last chapter of their report.

Given that perhaps 50 percent of racial achievement gaps are due to differences in early childhood education, how can an educational reform dedicated to eliminating racial achievement gaps not make early childhood education one of its major components? A real assessment of NCLB would point out that the Act has ignored highly effective reforms like early childhood education, reducing class sizes, small schools and school integration in favor of something that is "neutral at best."

While there are some good recommendations in Beyond NCLB, the authors are mainly trapped by the flawed assumptions and biases of the Act. If we really want to leave no child behind, we have to get beyond NCLB and the Commission's report also.

Special to the Defender from

The Missing Variable: What Bill Gates Didn't Tell The Senate

Gary Stanger knows that Bill Gate's main motivation is to create a large educated workforce that will compete for jobs, and therefore be payed less...

No one should ever question Bill Gates’ generosity or commitment to improving American schools. His analysis however, should be subject to debate...He used his invitation to testify as an opportunity to delineate the failings of American high schools. His testimony also implied a correlation between test scores and Microsoft’s inability to fill 3,000 positions for high-skill workers.

Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to Mr. Gates or the Senators questioning him that Microsoft has become an undesirable place to work.

Don’t believe me? Business Week is but one publication chronicling the difficulties Microsoft has attracting and retaining talent. It’s articles, Troubling Exits at Microsoft & Revenge of the Nerds - Again offer a primer on how not to sustain organizational innovation.
"There was a lot of buzz around the Google [employment recruiting] table and not a lot around the Microsoft table," says Bob Richard, associate director of employer relations at MIT. (source)
One web site claims that Microsoft is doing little to attract recent graduates.
What is really disturbing about the Microsoft connection with the H-1B issue is that they are not even making a show of trying to hire US high-tech workers. Microsoft did not attempt to recruit at any of the 22 California State University campuses, where many of the high-tech US computer workers graduate. Microsoft is also not participating at this year's Engineering Job Fair at CSUS. (source)
Gates also fails to acknowledge a trend regarding the career aspirations of young people. The USA Today article, Gen Y Makes a Mark and Their Imprint is Entrepreneurship, describes how young Americans are less attracted to jobs in large corporations.
"People are realizing they don't have to go to work in suits and ties and don't have to talk about budgets every day," says Ben Kaufman, 20, founder of a company that makes iPod accessories. "They can have a job they like. They can create a job for themselves." (source)
Other analyses of employment conditions at Microsoft may be found here & here. Like most large American companies, Microsoft has also outsourced thousands of jobs to other countries.

Microsoft might be better served by creating more attractive working conditions and responding to the market than by beating up on high schools.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Article challenges 'No Child' law

This from New Hampshire. I will never understand why there has not been more of this throughout the country these last five years.

One of the proposed warrant articles on the Shaker Regional School District agenda has drawn attention from Washington.

The article, a non-binding resolution, recognizes the goals of the No Child Left Behind mandates to raise academic achievement, but says the law itself has some serious flaws and that include unfunded mandates and "costly testing of students with misleading results."

"Now therefore, be it resolved that the Shaker Regional School District is committed to either correcting and responsibly funding or repealing the (No Child Left Behind) act," the article reads....

Thursday, March 08, 2007


From EURweb comes this assessment of NCLB. The author sees early childhood education as the key to success. That's OK but I did not think we were looking for expensive solutions, or ones that might have a chance of actually working...

...NCLB's heart is an accountability-based reform, but this type of reform has a weak track record. A review of accountability reforms published in the American Journal of Education last year concluded that NCLB's chances were "neutral at best." Why is such a monumental educational initiative centered on one of the least promising policies?

An effective national educational reform program should begin by expanding pre-kindergarten programs like the successful one now operating in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This program has produced significant gains for Hispanic and black children. There is a large body of research showing the benefits of quality early childhood education.

The commissioners agree and state that "half of the white-African American achievement gap in 12th grade can be explained by the gaps in achievement in 1st grade." NCLB, however, does little in the area of early childhood education. Because the commissioners are trapped within the NCLB framework, they too marginalize the issue of early childhood education and relegate their discussion of it to one-third of the last chapter of their report.

Given that perhaps 50 percent of racial achievement gaps are due to differences in early childhood education, how can an educational reform dedicated to eliminating racial achievement gaps not make early childhood education one of its major components? A real assessment of NCLB would point out that the Act has ignored highly effective reforms like early childhood education, reducing class sizes, small schools and school integration in favor of something that is "neutral at best."

While there are some good recommendations in Beyond NCLB, the authors are mainly trapped by the flawed assumptions and biases of the Act. If we really want to leave no child behind, we have to get beyond NCLB and the Commission's report also.

Don't Take This to the Bank, But...

This from NCLBlog

March 8, 2007 08:45 AM

This bit of speculation may not be worth the paper it's written on, but...there's some talk that we can rule out 2008 as the year when NCLB will be reauthorized. The idea is that election-year politics will prevent Congress from passing the bill during 2008, which leaves 2007 and 2009 still in the running...


The Senate Education Committee is moving faster than the House in the NCLB reauthorization process, meaning that they held their second hearing today, while the House has not begun their hearings. For bettors on the NCLB reauthorization date, I think this slows things down considerably.

The result: 2009 emerges as the favorite. But I'd sooner bet on the Washington Nationals
(ranked 30th out of 30 teams in this analysis) winning the World Series than lay down money on the NCLB timeline.

Why do we prolong what this horrible bill is doing to children? Because it's not about kids, it's about politics. (See Below)

Republican Congressman to Introduce No Child Left Behind Alternative

From the Cybercast News Service. There are moments, and issues, where I do, actually agree with right wing republicans and this is one..

By Monisha Bansal Staff Writer
March 08, 2007

( - With the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) scheduled for reauthorization this year, some in Washington are judging the effects of the federal education policy.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), now a member of the House minority, plans to create his own education proposal, because he is unhappy about the bureaucratic elements that have arisen over the last several years.

"You have a bunch of unintended consequences out of No Child Left Behind that destroy our public education system," Hoekstra said at a discussion at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

"With No Child Left Behind we shifted down the road toward federal government education," he said. "We are now on the road to a national curriculum, national accountability, national testing ... and then we will also have a process of federally mandated corrections standards for those who don't meet the standards."

Hoekstra added, "Every school in the country will begin to look exactly the same. Say goodbye to local control, and say hello to federal government schools."

Under his proposal to be introduced next week, the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act of 2007, states would no longer be required to follow regulations tied to federal funding, and it would allow them to "assume full responsibility for the educational needs of its students."

But Andrew Rotherham, co-director of the education think tank Education Sector and a member of the Virginia State Board of Education, said, "The reason we're in the jam we're in is in no small part because of the states."

Rotherham said the federal government has had to intervene to improve equity in America's school systems as well as the quality of education.

"It just doesn't work," Susan Neuman, former assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Department of Education, said of the NCLB. "We've stopped improvement with greater accountability."

Under the NCLB, students take 14 standardized tests between grades three and 11 on math and reading. Hoekstra noted that this number is likely to grow with the reauthorization to 84 or more standardized tests as more subjects are added.

Bush has mandated that children be proficient in math and reading by 2014. "This notion that by 2014 all children will be proficient is a fantasy, and it's rhetoric and it's unfortunate, and it's turning people against and afraid of our schools," Neuman said.

Neal McCluskey, a political analyst with the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, told Cybercast News Service that Hoekstra's proposal "probably won't be enacted given the political circumstances."

Hoekstra was cast into the House minority when Democrats swept control of the chamber in November.

"I think a lot of this depends on how badly President Bush wants to have a reauthorization of his education law as part of his legacy," McCluskey said. "If he wants it badly enough, I think he will be willing to compromise [with congressional Democrats].

"I think we will definitely see it happen before he leaves office," he said.

"Virtually all behavior in Washington over the last several years has been covered by political considerations," said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas). "Politics is a curious form of juvenile delinquency."

Armey said the NCLB is not about effective policy, but about politics.

"No Child Left Behind has always been a major political initiative of the Bush administration, and it has scarcely been anything other than that," he said. "There will be very little about this education bill that will be intellectual, and a whole heck of a lot that will be political and emotive."

"Federal education programs live or die by whether or not they work politically, not academically," said McCluskey.

But Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute Center for Educational Freedom, defended the intent of the NCLB, even though he is a strong critic of the program.

"The NCLB's goals of raising academic achievement and diminishing the gaps between socio-economic groups are admirable and universally popular," Coulson said.

"But the regulatory means by which the law tries to achieve those goals is ineffective, harmful, contrary to policies that actually do work, and unconstitutional," he said, noting that the U.S. Constitution does not address education.

Coulson said students would be better served by allowing school choice or vouchers.

"A vast body of empirical research points to competitive education markets as significantly better than bureaucratically-run school systems in achieving all of the NCLB's goals," he said.

"Parents will become meaningful consumers," McCluskey added, as they will choose the schools that serve their children best.

But Neuman disagreed. "Some of you believe choice alone will make a difference. It will not," she said. "We know that from the existing provisions in No Child Left Behind."

I applaud the reporter. This is a piece that offers different views of NCLB. There's plenty her to agree and disagree with. And I never thought that I would agree with what Dick Armey has to say, "
NCLB is not about effective policy, but about politics."