To the Editor:
Your article “Race to Top Viewed as Template for ESEA” (Jan. 6, 2010) describes the federal Race to the Top program as the potential basis for the next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act. This idea should give education professionals cause for concern.
While President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are to be praised for their unprecedented investment in education, they should receive no praise for the simple name change they’ve performed, from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top. The fundamental flaws of the old ESEA remain within the new program; the only difference is that Race to the Top gives states a chance to compete for additional education funding.
Historically, the ESEA was developed after the racial desegregation of local school districts. In its reauthorization, legislators must be careful not to let data and tests become the new buzzwords used to resegregate children. Data and tests should be used to inform, not to punish. No research supports the notion that the closing of schools or the punishing of principals, teachers, or even students for failing to meet testing benchmarks improves a school, or increases student achievement.
For the next reauthorization of the ESEA to be successful, it must ultimately do what is best for children—and what is best for children is not the creation of a federal game-show competition for adequate funding. Every state’s children are valuable, and every state should benefit from additional educational resources.
The American Federation of School Administrators cautions legislators to be wary of any quick fixes for education. The ESEA’s reauthorization must be rooted in best practices that thoroughly, effectively, and thoughtfully address the real needs of children.
American Federation of School Administrators
A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as ‘Race to the Top': Only an NCLB Name Change?