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NCLB: The Next Generation

Is more test-and-punish in your future?

By Alain Jehlen


Dan Wasserman, The Boston Globe

More focus on standardized test scores and new ways to punish educators. That’s what the Obama Administration has proposed in a “Blueprint” for revising No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Firing entire staffs over low test scores, as happened in Rhode Island and other states, is one of the strategies endorsed by the Blueprint.

Meanwhile, NEA has sent Congress its own set of recommendations, calling for fewer standardized tests and more proven strategies to help struggling schools. (Click on the video at right to see an excerpt from President Van Roekel's testimony to Congress. NEA and its affiliates have also developed a Priority Schools Campaign for some of the most challenging schools.)

NCLB is the current incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is overdue to be rewritten and renamed. The Administration wants Congress to take action by August.

NEA supports the goals and some elements of the Administration’s Blueprint. Two examples: The Blueprint says schools should get credit for improvement, even if students don’t yet meet standards. And the 2014 deadline for every child to be “proficient”—achievable only by dumbing down the meaning of that word—is out.

But there are big differences. Here are some highlights:


Administration “Blueprint”

NEA proposals


The Blueprint does not shrink NCLB’s heavy testing schedule and maintains its assumption that student scores are the key measure of school excellence. Fewer mandated standardized tests—just one in grades 4–6 and one in grades 7–9. High schools could assess in a variety of ways, including tests and senior projects. More use of tests that are designed to guide instruction.

Help for struggling schools:

Schools where students score lowest must choose one of four plans. Three of them require closing the school, giving it to a charter operator, or firing the staff and rehiring no more than half. Research does not support any of these. Schools should analyze their specific problems and design strategies to fix them, choosing from a broad set of research-based approaches such as smaller classes, better mentoring and coaching, intensive professional development, and early intervention strategies in math and reading.

Teacher evaluation:

Evaluations must be based at least partly on student standardized test scores. School districts should develop stronger evaluation systems with and for their employees. No new power for federal officials to intervene in teacher evaluation.

How federal money is given out:

More use of competitive grants, so only some districts will benefit and none will be able to budget for the long-term. Money allocated according to financial need, as indicated by the number of low-income children and similar factors.


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Dennis Van Roekel brings the voice of educators to Congress regarding the reauthorization of ESEA: New blueprint makes a faulty connection between tests and teacher compensation.

You Can Help

Events may move quickly now. Click here to find out what’s happening and—most important—what you can do about it.

You’ll also find links to the Administration “Blueprint,” NEA policies, and NEA member discussions on NCLB.

The most influential lobbyists are NEA members, who work and vote in almost every Congressional district and know better than anyone what it takes to give every child a great public school.

Add your voice!

NEA’s Priority Schools

In NEA’s Priority Schools, educators, administrators, and parents have joined forces to help children learn. More here.