From: "Bob Schaeffer"
To: "ARN Main List"
New York Times editorial writers (primarily Brent Staples) continue to
confuse identification of a very real problem -- inequity and the educational achievement gap that results -- with NCLB's counter-productive "solution." Letters to the editor should be emailed
to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 212 556-3622. Remember to limit
comments to 150 words or so in order to increase the odds that they will
STAND FIRM FOR EDUCATIONAL FAIRNESS
New York Times Editorial -- April 22, 2005
The Bush administration jeopardized the most important education reform
of the last 100 years when it failed to fully finance the No Child Left
Behind Act, which requires states to improve scholastic achievement for
poor and minority children in return for federal dollars. The shortfall
in funds has not only made it more difficult for some states to comply,
but has also provided a handy excuse for those who don't believe that
the achievement gap between white and minority children can ever be
closed - or don't want to make the effort to try.
Right now, when the law is under attack from all sides, it's important
to divide the critics who want to make it work better from those who
simply want to see it go away. It can't be a coincidence that the states
most actively opposed to No Child Left Behind have poor records when it
comes to the very issues the federal law is supposed to address.
The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers'
union, made headlines this week when it engineered a lawsuit asserting
that No Child Left Behind illegally requires states to spend their own
money on enforcing new federal requirements. The N.E.A. has
misrepresented the law to the public from the start, and the primary aim
of its suit is to throw out the baby with the bath water. The union
doesn't want a better No Child Left Behind Act; it wants to make the law
The new law has also drawn protests from Connecticut and Utah, two
states where the achievement gaps between white and minority children
are among the largest in the nation. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings, who has been working to fix some of the genuine problems with
the administration of the law, struck the right tone this week when she
notified Utah that if it insisted on substituting a weaker system of its
own choosing for the federal rules, it could potentially lose federal
That same warning should apply to Connecticut, which has threatened to
sue the federal government over the portion of the law that requires
annual student testing in grades three through eight. The testing is
necessary to ensure that the states are actually closing the achievement
gap between white and minority children.
Connecticut, which already tests in some grades, argues that testing
every year in the grades required by the law would be of no value. But
it would be extremely valuable to the parents of at-risk children, who
should not have to wait two years to find out whether the schools are
actually helping their children.
The No Child Left Behind law has been a success on many levels -
particularly in reorienting the thinking of the school districts that
used to average out success by letting the stellar achievements of
middle-class students wipe out the failures on the bottom. But it will
take years, and far more work and money, before the public sees the kind
of improvement it has a right to expect. Right now, everyone who cares
about quality education for all children should be working to make that
happen, not to dismantle what has already been done.
Secretary Spellings should make it clear that Congress meant business
when it declared an end to educational inequality and required the
states to actually teach impoverished children in exchange for getting
federal aid. Money is clearly crucial, but the argument over funds
should not be allowed to derail the new law, which is already showing
that achievement gaps can be narrowed if the schools apply themselves.