School & District Management

Educators Endorse Rules On Accountability

By Catherine Gewertz — November 26, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In a joint letter sent to Congress last week, more than 100 superintendents and other education leaders urged lawmakers to resist pressure to scale back the accountability provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act.

The letter to Congress is available online from the Education Trust. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The signatories to the letter objected to “the effort to roll back” parts of the law as “a thinly veiled attempt to turn back the clock to a time” when schools could average the performance scores of their students. Schools, the letter said, could “coast” on that number, rather than revealing the academic struggles of some children, such as those from low-income families and those enrolled in special education.

The Education Trust, a Washington-based group that advocates for disadvantaged students, organized the letter-signing in a bid to offset what it views as a rise in rhetoric targeting the federal law. The group criticized those it believes are attempting to undermine the law, but did not name them.

Kati Haycock

Some education groups back the law, the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, while others, such as the National Education Association, have called for varying degrees of revision. Several states, as well, are seeking modifications or considering opting out of its provisions. (“NEA Seeks Allies to Bring Lawsuit on ESEA Funding,” Aug. 6, 2003, and “States Need Updates for Managing Data, Analysis Concludes,” Oct. 22, 2003.)

Criticism of the law has cropped up in the presidential campaign. Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination, has proposed significant changes, including the law’s accountability provisions.

In a conference call with reporters last week, the Education Trust’s director, Kati Haycock, said she was concerned that “some of the opposition” to the law has “crossed a very serious line” by suggesting that poor children and those who are members of racial minorities can’t learn as well as their more advantaged or white peers.

Many of the superintendents who signed the letter run districts with large populations of poor and minority children and can attest that a focused effort can deliver improved achievement, for even the most disadvantaged children, Ms. Haycock said.

Local Stories

Several school leaders who joined in the conference call related such success stories from districts they have worked in.

“For too long, we’ve been hearing that poor and minority children cannot learn at high levels, and we’ve made excuses for our own failures,” said Diana Lam, New York City’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. “The culture of accountability” created by the No Child Left Behind Act is important to ensure that sound schooling is provided for all children, she said.

Ricardo Z. Medina, the superintendent of the 2,300-student Bridgeport-Spaulding Community School District in Michigan, said districts have long used federal Title I money for disadvantaged children without having to justify the outcomes.

“The accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind are forcing us to do some things we should have been doing all along,” he said.

Diana Lam

Some who have raised objections to the law took issue with the Education Trust’s suggestion that wanting it revised means they have low expectations for disadvantaged children.

“I am offended by that,” said Frank Belluscio, the spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, which has joined with other education groups and the state’s Democratic governor to urge changes in the law, such as allowing more individualized assessment of special education students’ progress.

“I’ve yet to hear anyone say we don’t want to close achievement gaps. It’s important that we do,” he said. “We want children with special learning needs to meet the same standards as anyone else, but you need to assess their progress differently.”

The signatories to the letter argued for full funding of the law, but urged their colleagues to avoid using insufficient money “to escape our responsibilities” for implementing the law.

“We never have enough resources,” Mr. Medina said. “We are going through terrible economic times now. But that becomes a copout and an excuse.”


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management From Our Research Center Just How Widespread Are the Threats to Educators Over COVID Policies?
An EdWeek Research Center survey asked district and school leaders if they, or anyone on their staff, had faced threats.

3 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP