The Clarke County School Board has joined a growing number of professional education associations in asking for regulatory relief from requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
By a unanimous agreement Monday night, the Clarke County School Board authorized letters to US Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and Representative Frank Wolf citing that ESEA, more commonly known as “No Child Left Behind,” is more than three years overdue for congressional re-authorization and is widely recognized as flawed and in need of improvement. The letter goes on to charge that ESEA accountability requirements will result in more than three quarters of American’s public schools being labeled as “failing” in the coming school year.
“As you have been made aware, Congressional inaction has allowed the current [ESEA] legislation to remain unaltered for almost three years beyond its original re-authorization date. Meanwhile, current law mandates annual growth in the arbitrary standardized test pass rates required for schools to meet the federal standard for â€˜adequate yearly progress,’ or AYP,” Clarke County School Board Chairman Barbara Lee (Millwood) said in her letter to the three congressman. “As you know, failure to meet AYP represents a serious negative judgment against a school and its community. If you believe such a label is appropriate for any of our schools, we challenge you to visit one of them and point out any evidence to support that designation.”
At Monday night’s school board meeting several members took the opportunity to criticize No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policies.
“NCLB has been responsible for a serious decline in our schools and the level of standardization in our SOL (Standards of Learning) and has done nothing more,” said school board member Robina Bouffault (White Post).
“The NCLB criteria was unattainable in my opinion,” said school board member Janet Alger (Russell). “We need to replace it with something more realistic.”
NCLB was originally proposed by the administration of President George W. Bush immediately after he took office and supported in the Senate by the bill’s co-author Senator Ted Kennedy. NCLB was passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress.
NCLB focuses on standards-based education reform based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The NCLB act requires states to develop basic skill assessments for students if the states are to receive federal funding for schools. NLCB does not assert a national achievement standard, rather standards are set by each individual state. If NCLB is ultimately jettisoned, as many educators hope, it will have been a costly educational experiment for the American taxpayer. Since enactment, Congress increased federal funding of education from $42.2 billion in 2001 to $54.4 billion in 2007. Funding tied to NCLB received a 40.4% increase from $17.4 billion in 2001 to $24.4 billion.
The school board’s ESEA letter, which will be sent to the three congressmen on Tuesday, complains that a school’s failure to meet NCLB standards results in a “drastic misrepresentation of the accomplishments of American’s public schools,” and “does more harm than good and undermines the hard work of millions of educators and students across the nation every day.”
The letter goes on to say that “America’s public schools and the students they serve deserve relief from the onerous regulations that are widely acknowledged to be both unfair and overly burdensome,” and urges the US Department of Education to exercise its regulatory authority to relieve school districts from the constraints of the current ESEA statutes until Congress moves forward with complete reauthorization of the NCLB act.
“We therefore hope that the enclosed Resolution will inspire your vigorous attention to this matter,” Lee says in her letter to Warner, Webb and Wolfe. “The Clarke County School Board still believes that its schools do not need “grand reforms” from the federal government. Our schools merely need Congress to fix the obvious problems with the existing version of ESEA. And we need Congress to fix those problems now.”