Miller Made Imprint on NCLB

December 09, 2008 1 min read
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When people criticize NCLB for being unfair to schools, they point their fingers at President Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. But, as my retrospective look at the Bush presidency points out, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., had a significant role in making NCLB’s accountability rules as tough as they are.

Bush’s initial NCLB proposal would have required schools to set up schools to make AYP goals for all students and specifically for low-income students. They also would have needed to report the progress of students in minority groups and categories such as special education students and English-language learners. But the final bill required schools to meet AYP goals for all categories to avoid accountability sanctions.

That requirement was essentially the same as an amendment that Miller and Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., offered in 1999 when Congress was working on reauthorizing ESEA, former Miller aide Charles Barone told me. (That comment didn’t make my piece for space reasons.)

“While Miller and Kildee lost that battle [in 1999], what they did was set the stage for an alliance between top congressional Democrats and Bush ... to do something powerful and constructive to focus attention and resources on the nation‘s most vulnerable children,” Barone wrote in a 2007 paper for Democrats for Education Reform.

By 2007, Miller had adopted the mantra that NCLB “is not fair, not flexible, and is not funded.” He offered a proposal to add multiple measures to the accountability system. Spellings complained that it would have “watered down” accountability; others said the changes would have made the law too complicated.

As Tom Toch and I pointed out earlier, we’re in for a major debate about the future of federal accountability rules. At the heart of the debate is the following question: Is there a fair way to hold schools accountable for the individual performance of their entire population as well as of students in a variety of demographic categories?

If you have the answer, you may want to publish it.

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

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