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Re: Michigan Ed Assn on NCLB

I think that most people will not buy these distortions and scare
tactics. What the law really says is that, if year after year, kids in
a school are not making satisfactory progress, the school must undertake
a process of improvement, and districts and states are responsible for
that. Art

>>> monty@fairtest.org 12/10/03 02:39PM >>>
This is on the Michigan Education Association Website -
http://www.mea.org/Page.cfm?p=5096 It is a sharp attack, but also
somewhat defeatist.

The affiliated Great Lakes Center (which sponsored the Amrein and
Berliner study that showed states with high stakes testing doing worse)
also has short pieces on testing that I have not yet had a chance to
look at. http://www.greatlakescenter.org/?

ESEA-A clear and present danger
WARNING: Your neighborhood public school is being set up and as a
result your child will be labeled a failure.

The ESEA or Elementary and Secondary Education Act is the main law
outlining the federal requirement for the nation's public schools and
federally funded K-12 programs. First enacted in 1965 when signed into
law by President Lyndon Johnson, it has been revised every five to seven

The latest revision was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed by
President Bush in 2002. This version, dubbed "No Child Left Behind,"
greatly expands the federal government's role in pubic education. An
enormous increase in student testing, exhaustive district reporting
requirements, and punitive consequences for troubled schools are at the
heart of this legislation. Furthermore, this law is woefully
underfunded-it will create an enormous burden on already tight district

At first glance, No Child Left Behind appears to be an admirable
legislative effort designed to improve public education. It provides
funding for 12.5 million children living in high poverty areas. It also
provides funding for student literacy, school technology and school

Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that parts of this
legislation are sheer lunacy! The law mandates that every child in the
country must meet predetermined federal standards on high stakes tests
without consideration to abilities, disabilities, or unique differences
among children and their learning styles.

In addition, if any one of four subgroups identified in the
law-economically disadvantaged students; students in major racial or
ethnic groups; students with disabilities; and non-English speaking
students-fails to meet proficiency, the whole school is deemed failing
and punitive consequences that range all the way to closing the school
are put into place.

It would be easy to assume that only truly troubled schools would be
labeled as failures under ESEA. However, that is not the case. Consider
Vandenberg Elementary School in Southfield. Last year it made the
headlines when President Bush went to Southfield to tout the promises of
No Child Left Behind. "I'm real proud to be in the midst of teachers
that are doing a great job," Bush said, to the applause of those in
attendance. "The reason I'm here is because this is a successful school.
It's a successful school because there is a mindset that says 'every
child can learn.'"

So, imagine the community's shock when, just three months after
President Bush's speech, Vandenberg Elementary made headlines again.
This time, however, the news painted a different picture. The school had
been labeled as failing according to a federal report required under No
Child Left Behind.

Can a school change that much in three months? Of course not.
Vandenberg Elementary was an exceptional school before the president's
visit and it still excels today.

Last month, hundreds of graduation ceremonies were held in gymnasiums,
auditoriums and field houses across this state and indeed this country.
With both smiles and tears of joy, proud parents, grandparents and
siblings saw their loved ones walk across stages, heard their names over
loudspeakers, and watched them clutch the prize they were there to
receive-their high school diplomas.

At the same time, more than 200 Michigan schools were labeled failing
under ESEA guidelines. Next month, when the data on the most recent MEAP
scores are reviewed against the new guidelines, hundreds more will be
labeled failing. Likely, many of these will be the same schools that
celebrated excellence just a few weeks earlier-like Vandenberg
Elementary-perhaps a school near you.

Congress has moved on to other issues. The likelihood that the problems
inherent in ESEA will be solved through further legislation is very
slim. Parents, district staff and students are now left to cope with the
incredible burden of ESEA alone-without the necessary federal funding or

A conspiracy theorist might say that the real purpose of No Child Left
Behind is to leave Public Education Behind by setting it up for certain
failure. This would open the door once again to the idea of sending
public tax dollars to private and sectarian schools through vouchers-the
panacea for those who don't believe that our system of free public
education is the cornerstone of our democratic society.

The stakes are high for public schools under ESEA: the rules confusing
and unreasonable; the goals unrealistic; and the punishment for failure
devastating. Even worse, when the federal government deems a school
failing based on student test scores, isn't it really saying that our
children are failures? After all, schools are buildings-brick and
mortar. Failure will be attributed to the people inside them-students
and staff. To label any child a failure is morally reprehensible.


Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Executive Director
342 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4810 fax 617-497-2224