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City Chiefs Lobby for Hot-Button Issues

July 17, 2008 2 min read
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Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., invited two mayors and the leaders of four urban districts to testify about the success their cities have had in improving student achievement.(Here’s a link to the committee’s page about the hearing.)

Over the course of the three-hour hearing, the leaders gave the chairman and the rest of the Education and Labor Committee three ideas for changing NCLB:

1.) Create national standards:

Right now, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall said the only way for districts to measure their students’ performance against the rest of the country is participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ program measuring city schools’ achievement.

“We need to have national standards and national assessments so then everybody can understand that if you’re proficient in math in California, you’re proficient in math in New York,” said Joel I. Klein, the chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

“If you look at the countries that are doing well, they all have national tests and national standards,” he added.

“The fact that you have 50 different hurdles for our children to jump over, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Arne Duncan, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

2.) Maintain challenging accountability systems:

NCLB’s accountability measures, requiring students from various subgroups to meet goals, was “a huge step in the right direction,” Duncan said.

Duncan and Klein said that accountability should be revised to recognize students’ growth or the value-added by each school.

But they and others didn’t ask Congress to make the law’s goals easier to meet.

“I think you should make it harder for people like me because it’s not about me, it’s about my kids,” Klein said.

3.) Finance teacher-pay experiments:

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed federal money to “give incentives for effective teachers and principals to work in the schools that need them the most.”

District of Columbia Chancellor Michelle Rhee said that federal money should reward teachers for improving the achievement of their students.

The proposal would get “a significant amount of pushback” on linking teacher pay and student performance, she said.

“It’s incredibly important for the Democratic Party to step up on this,” she added.

Committee members didn’t seem to be excited about these big three ideas. Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., raised questions about whether it’s fair to hold all students to the same standard given the inequities of schools’ finances. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., said her experience working in human resources would make it difficult to create new teacher-pay plans that are “fair and objective and defensible.”

These debates over those two issues dominated last year’s effort to reauthorize NCLB. After today’s hearing, it’s clear they’ll re-emerge next year—or whenever Congress gets around to debating the law again.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.


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