Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., asked his constituents recently whether they liked the No Child Left Behind Act.
The answer was a resounding no.
In a survey of more than 2,000 Colorado educators conducted by the senator’s office, the overwhelming sentiment was that the 5-year-old law sets unrealistic achievement goals, is underfinanced, and puts too much emphasis on reading and mathematics.
“The benefits of No Child Left Behind should not be judged by the Department of Education alone,” the first-term senator said in a statement releasing the survey results. “The people who best understand the effects of No Child Left Behind are the people who interact with our students every day.”
Although Mr. Salazar is not on the education committee, which will oversee the reauthorization of the NCLB law, he said he wants to be an active participant in the debate over how to change it.
The survey results he released last month, he said, will inform his views during the reauthorization, scheduled for this year.
In the survey, 85 percent of district administrators and 94 percent of principals and teachers said they don’t believe schools will meet the goal that all students will score at the proficient level by the 2013-14 school year.
“This goal is very lofty, and incremental goals may be easier to achieve, ” Sen. Salazar wrote in a Jan. 16 letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Almost 90 percent of the educators said that schools are overlooking subjects other than reading and mathematics—the two subjects that get the greatest focus under the federal law’s accountability system.
“NCLB should not distract from other educational subjects,” Sen. Salazar wrote.
In addition to his ideas for changes, the Coloradan offered a program in his state as a model to inform the NCLB reauthorization.
The pay-for-performance project in the 85,000-student Denver school district is an example of rewarding highly effective teachers, and is one that federal officials should study when considering that topic during the reauthorization, Sen. Salazar said in his letter to Sen. Kennedy.
A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2007 edition of Education Week