The National Education Association's ESEA/NCLB Alert
July 15, 2003
NEA's weekly ESEA/NCLB Alert contains updated information on the federal education law. Here's the latest news.
- RA Update:
- Different tacks
- More full funding calls
- Department of Ed Update: Sticks and stones:
- Studies and Reports
- State Updates
- Quote of the Week
- RA Update:
RA Update: There was more than one storm kicking up during the NEA's six-day 2003 Representative Assembly in smoldering New Orleans. Not only did NEA announce plans to file a late summer lawsuit challenging ESEA/NCLB's unfunded mandates, RA delegates sent nearly 13,000 e-mails and made more than 1,000 phone calls to state legislators and members of Congress urging them to amend and fully fund the federal education law. Before the 82nd annual meeting ended at 5:02 p.m. July 6 - it's earliest adjournment in 36 years - RA delegates authorized NEA to:
o Work with the state and local chapters of other labor, community, religious, and advocacy organizations to change educational priorities within the national budget.
o Encourage state and local affiliates to build coalitions with students, parents, and community leaders to demand that money be re-allocated from prison expansion funds to public education.
o Use NEA TODAY and other NEA media to educate members on how the Bush administration's tax cuts will affect present and future funding for public education, on the challenges faced by rural and suburban educators and to discuss enacting progressive tax reform and redistributing corporate wealth. NEA will also encourage its affiliates to promote the slogan "It is our children, not the corporations, who need a break," penned during a speech by NEA President Reg Weaver:
o Use the term "No Child Left Behind" when it is preceded by an explanation that the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been re-titled "No Child Left Behind." :
o Gather current, existing research on the achievement gap of second and third generation Hispanic and Hmong students and inform state affiliates and members of its availability. NEA will also hold a national seminar addressing the federal and state challenges facing English Language Learners and present recommendations on how to address this issue to the NEA Board of Directors no later than May 2004.
Other ESEA related RA News: On July 2, delegates heard Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and Jill Morningstar of the Children's Defense Fund report on NEA funded research highlighting the negative affects of NCLB. Both lamented the law's narrow focus and its preoccupation with punishing schools that don't meet proficiency levels or adequate yearly progress. Also, 27 separate State delegations met with NEA leaders and staff in the Great Public Schools/NCLB Dialogue Room to discuss their concerns about NCLB. Their shared common complaints about NCLB's highly qualified teacher definition, which results in many quality veteran teachers being labeled unqualified an driven into retirement and the paraprofessional requirements that force low-paid but dedicated and qualified paraeducators to pay for college courses they cannot afford and don't have time to take. All groups complained that the overemphasis on testing is leading to a significant narrowing of the curriculum. And they say the lack of funding for everything from hiring teachers to reducing class size, to modernizing buildings and having updated curriculum materials, is having a staggering impact on instruction and morale. During another session, NEA provided detailed advice to delegates on ESEA/NCLB and collective bargaining issues. To get copies of the new ESEA Bargaining and Local Policy Guide, go to http://connect.nea.org/esea/cb.html. Or to get a paper copy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Different tacks
NEA and the AFT are using different approaches to address their problems with No Child Left Behind. While NEA announced it would sue the federal government on behalf of the states, school districts and educators affected by the law's accountability provisions, the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union, says it plans to tweak the law instead of getting rid of it. While admitting her organization has serious reservation about the law's lack of funding and school rating system, "We have to figure out ways to make the implementation good for schools and good for kids and good for teachers," says AFT President Sandra Feldman in an article that appeared in USA TODAY. During the RA, NEA President Reg Weaver complained that NCLB, in its current form "will drive inspired and experienced teachers and professionals from the classroom."
- More full funding calls
NEA isn't the only national organization calling for full funding of the federal education law that would force cash-strapped states to pay for NCLB's tutoring, testing and transfer provisions. At its annual meeting in Denver, the United States Conferences of Mayors issued its call. The Mayors also passed resolutions urging the federal government, along with state and local governments, to increase the investment in community-based after-school and out-of-school programs and to fund an adolescent reading program for middle and high school students. Also, the American Association of School Administrators, a professional organization for education leaders, supports NEA's lawsuits and commends it for having the "courage to hold Congress and the administration accountable for imposing federally unfounded mandates."
- Department of Ed Update
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige had harsh words for NEA after it announced its plans to sue the government and seek a ruling that states and school districts would not lose federal funding if they refuse to spend their own funds to implement NCLB. "We've assembled a coalition of the willing to help the kids who need it most; the NEA wants to assemble a coalition of the whining to hold kids back," said Paige.
Yet Paige must realize the law's shortcomings. Although Title I regulations prohibit the use of "out of grade level tests" for students with disabilities, the Department of Ed realized that developing an alternate tests at Title One schools would be time-consuming and difficult. During the RA, Paige sent a letter to the chief state school officers waiving the prohibition against using results from "out of grade level tests" for students with disabilities. But that waiver is only for tests administered during the 2002-2003 school year. For more info, access http://www.thompson.com/alert.
In his 18-month NCLB update to Congress, Paige detailed how state accountability plans were approved, calling it a major milestone achieved in record time. He also outlined the issues his agency will focus on in the coming months: placing a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, expanding opportunities for students to receive tutoring and other supplemental services and identifying schools in need of improvement and making sure they get the assistance they need. While Paige presents a picture that all is well in America with NCLB - funding has vastly increased, and states and schools are happy - in reality, the president's proposed budget for FY 04 would CUT NCLB programs by $1.2 billion BELOW the levels currently in place, says NEA's Joel Packer, Manager of ESEA Policy for NEA's Great Public Schools Action Plan. After school programs would be cut by 40 percent, funding for other important NCLB program including rural education, drop out prevention, and school counselors would be eliminated and Teacher Quality programs ($81 million for Teacher Quality State Grants and $87 million for Math-Science Partnerships) would be cut. "The President's budget falls almost $11 billion short of the amounts promised in NCLB," adds Packer. For Title I alone, the President's budget is $6.15 billion short of NCLB levels and it fails to fund the $500 million program authorized in NCLB to help turn around low-performing schools.
- Studies and Reports
There's another good news/bad news report from the Department of Education's National Assessment of Education Progress. According to NAEP, known as the nation's report card, fourth and eighth grades students in the U.S. have become better writers. But fewer high school seniors seem able to convey well-organized ideas. The report, which gives educators and parents an idea of how well students can write essays, communicate information and compose arguments, mirrored the results of the NAEP math report, issued last month. Despite the fact that fourth and eighth grade students showed significant strides in being able to handle challenging writing assignment and applying knowledge to real life situations, most students in these benchmark grades (4th, 8th and 12th) still can't provide coherent answers with clear language, the study reports.
A national telephone poll commissioned by The Business Roundtable of Washington, an avid supporter of NCLB, says the majority of the 800 parents and voters contacted support the law's reporting requirements. But they have little knowledge of the achievement gaps among different groups of students. Fifty-six percent of the parents and 59% of the voters surveyed agree schools should be labeled "in need of improvement" even if only one group of students lags behind.
A report, that criticizes the pending House Appropriations bill for failing to provide the funding promised for NCLB programs, includes the amount of each state's shortfall for Title I, Teacher Quality, After school, Impact Aid and other programs. Although the report is partisan, the state data should prove very useful to state affiliates. Visit http://www.house.gov/appropriations_democrats/ChildrenShortchange.pdf
The special problems facing middle schools trying to meet NCLB standards were the focus of The Alliance for Excellent Education's report NCLB and Middle Schools: Confronting the Challenge. According to the Alliance, NCLB treats middle school like high schools some of the time and like elementary schools at other times. NCLB standards for teacher quality differ according to the level being taught. Middle schools designated as high schools require teachers to have a major in each subject they teach. The Alliance's report offers recommendations to address these problems. Read it at:
- State Updates
Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn is suing his state's Legislature for failing to adequately fund public education. He asked the state Supreme Court to force the Legislature to pass an acceptable education budget - something it has not done during a regular session and two special sessions...Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed a bill that would have permitted financially struggling school districts to have a four-day school week... Connecticut and North Carolina are the 35th and 36th states to be awarded Reading First grants. Connecticut received a $42.5 million six-year Reading First grant to help its schools and districts improve children's reading achievement through scientifically proven methods of instruction. North Carolina will get 20.7 million for the first year and $153.9 million over six years if it successfully implements its Reading First program.... Alabama's State Board of Education voted not to send out letters informing parents when their child's teacher does not meet NCLB's "highly qualified" standard.
- Quote of the Week
"Bush's tax cuts Left No Millionaire Behind." -RA delegates H. Wrench and Steve Fletcher from North Carolina.