Some fixes needed to close gaps
Sept. 9, 2007
No Child Left Behind transformed federal education policy by focusing on
measurable results rather than vague goals and compliance with regulations.
Rather than judging performance based on schoolwide averages, the
revolutionary law also ensured that large numbers of children no longer remained
"invisible" in state accountability systems by requiring student progress to be
reported by subgroups: African-American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged,
students with disabilities, English-language learners and others.
Though NCLB has spurred some progress, it has not been enough. Unacceptable
achievement gaps between White students and minorities persist. We spend
hundreds of millions of dollars for remediation and retraining of high-school
graduates unprepared for higher education and the workplace.
Students in other nations consistently outperform our top students on
international test comparisons.
The Aspen Institute's Commission on NCLB spent more than a year assessing the
strengths and weaknesses of the law through a bipartisan process that included
public hearings and roundtable forums across the country. We have concluded that
this nation cannot back away from our commitment to ensure that all children
achieve to high expectations.
Informed by more than five years of experience in classrooms, central offices,
state houses and the public square since NCLB's passage, we must make
adjustments to refine accountability measures and improve student access to
options such as free tutoring and public-school choice. We must also take bold
steps to build on the law's foundation and accelerate progress toward achieving
its goals. Key commission recommendations for improving the law include:
Highly effective teachers: Allow states the flexibility to make teacher-quality
determinations based on effectiveness in student achievement in the classroom
rather than qualifications for entering the profession.
College ready standards: Create model national standards for voluntary state
adoption, and report to the public on the relative rigor and quality of
expectations in states that choose not to use them.
High-school accountability: Require consistent calculation of graduation rates
by states (reported by subgroups) and hold them accountable for closing
graduation rate gaps.
A reauthorized NCLB that incorporates these important reforms and refinements
will ensure that children are academically proficient, are able to meet the
demands of good citizenship and can avail themselves of the opportunities that a
high-quality education affords.
Gary Huggins is director of the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left
Behind. To access the full report, visit www.nclbcommission.org.