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April 22, 2005 Extra Credit
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April 22, 2005

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NCLB Is Crucial To Educational Equity

The following are excerpts from editorials in The New York Times and The Salt Lake Tribune criticizing recent attacks on No Child Left Behind.

The New York Times writes:

"It can't be a coincidence that the states most actively opposed to No Child Left Behind have poor records when it comes to the very issues the federal law is supposed to address.

"The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, made headlines this week when it engineered a lawsuit asserting that No Child Left Behind illegally requires states to spend their own money on enforcing new federal requirements. The N.E.A. has misrepresented the law to the public from the start, and the primary aim of its suit is to throw out the baby with the bath water. The union doesn't want a better No Child Left Behind Act; it wants to make the law disappear entirely.

"The new law has also drawn protests from Connecticut and Utah, two states where the achievement gaps between white and minority children are among the largest in the nation. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who has been working to fix some of the genuine problems with the administration of the law, struck the right tone this week when she notified Utah that if it insisted on substituting a weaker system of its own choosing for the federal rules, it could potentially lose federal funds."

"The No Child Left Behind law has been a success on many levels - particularly in reorienting the thinking of the school districts that used to average out success by letting the stellar achievements of middle-class students wipe out the failures on the bottom. But it will take years, and far more work and money, before the public sees the kind of improvement it has a right to expect. Right now, everyone who cares about quality education for all children should be working to make that happen, not to dismantle what has already been done.

"Secretary Spellings should make it clear that Congress meant business when it declared an end to educational inequality and required the states to actually teach impoverished children in exchange for getting federal aid."

The Salt Lake Tribune writes:

"… [A]s the smoke clears after the [Utah] Legislature's resounding passage of the bill, its ramifications are still murky. It may feel good to tell Washington to butt out, but the new law [HB 1001] may not be a winner for Utah children. NCLB requires schools to be accountable for the progress of all students, specifically those in racial and ethnic groups, English learners, those from low-income families and students with disabilities, and it provides sanctions when they do not make adequate progress. HB1001 directs state education officials to ignore provisions of NCLB that conflict with Utah policy or that require state funding.

"Our concern, and the concern of Utah's minority community, is that in its zeal to defy Washington, the Legislature may allow schools to forsake the focus on underachieving students that NCLB has rightly forced. Utah has an embarrassing gap between the achievement of minority students and their white classmates. That gap must be a primary target of Utah's education reform. NCLB, with all its faults, provides a needed catalyst for narrowing that gap. U-PASS, Utah's alternative to NCLB, should provide a similar catalyst."

The complete editorial is available online.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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