"MTA and NEA applaud NCSL report on ""No Child Left Behind"""

The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures issued a report on Feb. 23 from all 50 state legislatures sharply criticizing the federal so-called No Child Left Behind Act as coercive and in violation of other laws -- such as federal special education laws. The NEA and MTA applaud this report, share the NCSL's concerns and have long called for many of the same reforms that the NCSL is now advocating.

MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau said, "This report shows that lawmakers across the country are in strong agreement with classroom teachers, who have long felt that this law is intrusive, rigid, punitive and often counterproductive. While the goals of the law are worthy, the specific mandates and lack of adequate funding are unacceptable. NCLB casts a long, dark shadow over public education by setting up a system under which schools are bound to fail. Far from leaving no child behind, the one-size-fits-all, test-based focus on reading and mathematics leaves many children and schools behind, replacing innovative programs with test-driven education and undermining support for public schools."

Some facts of note:

  • The NCSL represents the nation's 50 legislatures, with a membership that includes 3,657 Republicans and 3,656 Democrats, as well as a few legislators from smaller parties.
  • The NCSL report calls the goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014 "admirable but absolutely unattainable."
  • The NCSL report contends that NCLB's rigid and unfunded mandates actually undermine school improvement efforts already under way in many states.
  • The NEA strongly endorsed the NCSL report, with NEA President Reg Weaver commenting: "With nearly twice as many schools last year being labeled ‘in need of improvement' and hit with sanctions, the pressure is now building to focus almost exclusively on meeting federal testing mandates. Schools are being forced to cut arts, music, social studies, foreign languages and recess while prepping students for one-size-fits-all standardized tests."

Reforms to the law that the MTA supports include:

  • Giving states more flexibility -- beyond just test scores -- in determining which are "priority schools" that need assistance.
  • Providing assistance to struggling schools rather than labeling them deficient, imposing sanctions, and expecting them to make significant changes with little external support.
  • Shifting attention to identifying practices that result in positive student achievement.
  • Fully funding the law, which is proving to be so costly for states and districts.