August 05, 2004 Extra Credit
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August 5, 2004

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August 4
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To Critics of NCLB: "Do Your Homework"

The following op-ed by the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Regional Representative S. Anne Hancock was published yesterday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

As a former public school teacher, college professor and administrator, I'd like to offer a suggestion to those who resist education reform: Do your homework first. The No Child Left Behind Act is their latest target of complaint. To hear them say it, the law goes both too far and not far enough at the same time. These critics are prisoners of the educational status quo, which has become unacceptable to parents and unfair to millions of our children. As I travel throughout the Southeast, I see and hear another view.

No Child Left Behind is winning fans among moms and dads, teachers and principals. They realize it is spurring improvement in the long-forgotten corners of our public schools, while giving parents real options and teachers real training, including teacher-to-teacher workshops and grants for highly qualified teachers. While education bureaucrats repeat their talking points, the law is identifying children who need the most help and getting it to them, as we work to give all children a quality education.

Take Georgia, for example. The number of schools that met their testing goals grew from 64 percent to 78 percent this past school year. When a school, based on test scores, is labeled "in need of improvement," educators know they must bear down and focus resources and attention where the need is greatest. For too many years we have hidden economically disadvantaged and minority children behind the rest of the student population, allowing high average scores to hide the achievement gap. Now that achievement gap is closing, and closing fast. Independent studies and rising test scores all across the country are confirming it.

The law works because it refuses to accept poor performance from any student. It also has teeth, something that has been sorely lacking. Parents in chronically underperforming schools — we all know they're out there — may transfer their children to a different school or take advantage of free tutoring. School districts have a responsibility to inform parents in a timely manner of these options. Unfortunately, there are some bureaucrats who don't want to lose their lock on students and would like to keep parents in the dark. Instead, I urge them to become part of the solution.

Finally, to those who charge that No Child Left Behind has not been fully funded, I would ask you to recheck your work. Several credible, independent studies have concluded that the No Child Left Behind Act is adequately funded. Meanwhile, federal education spending for Georgia schools has risen to $3 billion — a 54 percent increase from when President Bush took office.

Like Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige, I believe all children have the ability and the willingness to learn. We can teach every one of them. I can't imagine anyone wanting to leave a single one behind.


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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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Last Modified: 03/28/2008