The National View

Leaving No Child Behind

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Monday, September 10, 2007

With House hearings on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act beginning today, The Post asked educators, lawmakers and others for their views of the legislation and what might improve it.

Do you think it's reasonable to expect your child to know how to read by the end of third grade? I do, and I can't think of a single reason any parent would feel otherwise.

Thanks to No Child Left Behind, for the first time, families have a right to expect that their children will be performing at or above grade level -- by 2014. Again: that's grade-level work or better. Not nuclear physics -- just the basic, fundamental skills that it takes to do all other schoolwork.

Since this act became law, nearly 500,000 more students have learned basic math skills. More than 500,000 others are getting free tutoring that was never available before. And the parents of 50 million students have more information, more control and more choices when it comes to their children's education.

Can we do a better job of challenging kids with advanced math and science and more rigor? Can we do a better job of getting kids and schools extra help to improve? Can we make accountability, assessment and measurement systems more effective, reliable, appropriate and sophisticated?

Absolutely. But as we work to strengthen and renew NCLB, we must not make it so "flexible" that it loses its power entirely. Thanks to this law, we're shining a bright light on every child's achievement. We don't always like what we see. But instead of obscuring what the law has uncovered, we must focus on the hard work ahead.

Margaret Spellings

U.S. Secretary of Education

From the start, the National Education Association supported the stated goals of No Child Left Behind: ensuring high expectations for every child, closing achievement gaps and giving all students qualified teachers. We endorsed specific elements in the law, including targeting funds to the neediest schools and students and disaggregating test data by subgroup. But as time passed, it became clear that NCLB was falling short of its lofty goals, and the law's negative effects on students, educators and schools began to emerge.

The NEA's 3.2 million teachers, administrators and other educators fervently believe that every child has a right to attend a great public school. To that end, we must change the requirements for testing and accountability to include multiple measures of tracking student progress. Test results are valuable, but they should be used to help students who need help -- not punish those who are already struggling.

The best way to ensure that no child is left behind is to give each student individual attention. That can happen only when classes are a manageable size.


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