PEN’s Message: NCLB Has Right Goals, Wrong Methods

July 26, 2007 1 min read

The Public Education Network has convened public forums and focus groups over the past three years. The Washington-based group heard from educators, parents, and community leaders in cities such as Austin, San Francisco, and Orlando as well as other cities that have public education funds. (Those are private groups that provide grants and other supports to school districts.)

Here’s the summary graph from PEN President Wendy Puriefoy’s intro to the final report on those meetings, released today:

“Over three years, and at every hearing site, the public supported the goals of NCLB. However, until the act addresses the realities of inequities, limited expectations of student and teacher capacities, and the isolation of parents and communities from school reforms, it will engender more rhetoric than real difference in the success of all students.”

Here are the complaints PEN heard most often NCLB:

1.) People consider NCLB’s universal goal of proficiency to be “exceedingly unfair” in a system where not all schools get the same amount of resources.

2.) NCLB’s accountability system relies too heavily on “faulty” tests.

3.) The law’s definition of what constitutes a highly qualified teacher relies too heavily on state certification requirements and has little to do with the “qualities students and parents want in a teacher,” such as commitment to the job and the ability to address the needs of students with differing abilities.

4.) NCLB pays “lip service” to parental involvement, but usually leaves parents and community leaders out of key decisions.

5.) The law’s accountability rules emphasize punitive actions, such as giving students a reason to leave a particular school by exercising a right to transfer. “Instead, federal efforts should support communitywide plans for turning around low-performing schools,” the report concludes.

PEN released the report today on Capitol Hill.

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