Helping the disadvantaged
East Valley Tribune
October 23, 2005

AIMS passing rates are up, but the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show Arizona still has a lot of work to do in raising the quality of instruction in our schools. Arizona students scored significantly below the nation average, according to data released on Wednesday.

But there’s good news to report also. Arizona’s schools are doing a better job keeping minority, disadvantaged and English-learner students from falling through the cracks. A recently released study by the Lexington Institute
( of educational progress made by English language learners (ELL) in six states, including Arizona, that have the largest populations of immigrants found that our schools are doing a better job of making sure these students become fluent as soon as possible in the language of success.

Don Soifer, education policy analyst for the Lexington Institute, credits the improvement to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which for the first time takes into account progress made by minorities, special-needs students and ELLs when rating how well schools are performing. The NCLB requirements were a wake-up call to most East Valley districts that had basked in high average standardized test scores that camouflaged pockets of failure in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

All of this is encouraging , but it also has exposed an embarrassing paradox for the political Left, which has been crusading to roll back the strict requirements of NCLB for several years. The National Education Association and several states have launched political and legal initiatives to blunt the requirements, even though an increasing number of minority parents are coming to NCLB’s defense as the first real glimmer of hope that their children will get a decent education.

"As with many broad-based reform plans, aspects of NCLB certainly have not been immune from the Law of Unintended Consequences" says Soifer. "But the strong opposition from much of the education establishment and the teacher unions to the tough accountability requirements is misguided, especially when it comes to teaching immigrant students.

"We found that most states do a significantly better job measuring English fluency and tracking students’ progress toward fluency as a result of NCLB.
Further, it appears that students learning English in federally funded English instruction programs are now making significantly more progress than before NCLB was passed."

The NEA and the Democratic Party, which are joined at the hip, have some explaining to do. If they truly represent the interests of America’s disadvantaged, then why the snit over No Child Left Behind, which was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress?

The NEA and Democratic Party should tell us exactly how many children, and from which demographic groups, they think it would be permissible to leave behind.