Issue Position: Improving No Child Left Behind
On January 8, 2002, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB radically altered K-12 education by returning the emphasis to accountability, fundamental learning, highly qualified teachers, and the beginnings of parental choice.
Under NCLB, states must conduct regular assessments in reading, mathematics, and science for students in grades 3-8. Schools are held accountable for their progress each year. Teachers in most schools must seek higher degrees. And, NCLB allows parents to move their children from consistently failing schools to nearby public alternatives.
I voted in favor of this legislation in 2002 because I strongly support the primary objective of NCLB - to set definitive goals for every public school student and be held accountable for achievements. Five years later this landmark legislation is up for renewal, and much work remains to be done.
We must seize the opportunity to improve upon NCLB program by addressing the basic concerns of educators and parents. From across the District parents and teachers have told me of the inflexibility of NCLB. Rigid federal guidelines constrain teachers and create an unreasonable cookie-cutter approach to education.
In response to these expressed concerns, I have co-sponsored H.R. 1539, "The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-Plus) Act of 2007." Introduced by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R- Michigan) and co-sponsored by 50 Representatives, this bill would make much needed improvements to NCLB.
A-Plus will give states the freedom to adopt best practices for their students by returning flexibility and control to the educators and parents who are the real experts on education.
States will establish aggressive goals and work to meet them using proven programs and approaches that work for each unique community. The Department of Education will receive state reports to monitor progress, compliance with civil rights laws, and the narrowing of the achievement gaps in different student populations.
No longer, will states be forced to "teach to a test" handed down from Washington. Teachers won't be tied to a federal prescribed list of activities to accomplish each semester. Instead, California, and other states, will have the opportunity to institute programs with proven success. If a reading program in Florida and a math program in Kansas lead to proven results, California may adopt the best approaches. If California parents set higher math, science, and physical education standards than neighboring states, the federal government will no longer stand in the way of progress.
H.R. 1539 reinstates educator and parental control, while retaining the benefits of federal support and guidance. NCLB can be improved to make it truly work for all students. H.R. 1539 would be an important step in the right direction.