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Can NCLB Be Left Behind?

Reauthorization could bring ‘damage control’ or more damage.
Can NCLB Be Left Behind?

 

President George W. Bush transformed ESEA when he came to office, leading a bipartisan reauthorization that used concern over the academic achievement gap to launch a multi-pronged effort of increased standardized testing, mandates for "adequate yearly progress" (AYP), and ever-more onerous sanctions for schools not meeting what almost all educators agree are unrealistic benchmarks of progress.

The ESEA has only been reauthorized a handful of times; before NCLB, which passed in 2002, the previous reauthorization was in 1994. Thus whatever is in the current reauthorization will likely remain in effect for at least five years, and quite possibly longer.

Because NCLB is Bush's rhetorically skillful but educationally bankrupt moniker for the decades-old ESEA, there is often confusion. As a result, some have started referring to "the ESEA reauthorization," to make clear that they oppose the NCLB but do not want to abandon a federal role in education reform, especially for urban schools that rely on federal dollars for essential programs.

Organizing for progressive alternatives to NCLB is being led by the Forum on Educational Accountability, and by early February more than 100 national organizations had signed the Forum's statement. The Forum calls for "fundamental changes" in NCLB, in particular the law's focus on standardized testing, its over-identification of schools in need of improvement, and its reliance on punitive sanctions. At the same time, the forum is crafting alternatives, such as multiple measures of achievement, that would speak to widespread and undeniable concerns about educational quality, especially in urban schools.

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