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NEA President: Reauthorization 'Blueprint' Disappointing

By Cynthia McCabe

March 13, 2010 -- The White House this weekend unveiled its proposal for reauthorizing the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law but the result is a disappointing outline for more of the same focus on testing. As a result, the NEA cannot support the plan as released, President Dennis Van Roekel said.

The Obama administration's "blueprint" for reauthorization adds to the already weighty bureaucracy of NCLB and overlays its own "Race to the Top" program, which forces states to compete for funding. It replaces the old law's requirement that all children be proficient in reading and math with one that all students graduate prepared for higher education and the workforce.

Largely missing is the input that educators around the country delivered to the administration when it took a listening tour from city to city to hear about the inequities and other problems wrought by No Child Left Behind.

"We were expecting to see a much broader effort to truly transform public education for kids," Van Roekel said after reviewing the proposal. "Instead, this blueprint’s accountability system still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers. We were expecting more funding stability to enable states to meet higher expectations. Instead, this blueprint requires states to compete for critical resources, setting up another winners-and-losers scenario. We were expecting school turnaround efforts to be research-based and fully collaborative. Instead, we see too much top-down scapegoating of teachers and not enough collaboration."

Left out of the Obama administration's proposal for reform are students' first teachers -- their parents. Van Roekel said there is no attempt in the blueprint to support parents' efforts to be more involved in their children's education.

“The public knows that struggling schools need a wide range of targeted actions to ensure they succeed, and yet the administration’s plan continues to call for prescriptions before the actual problems are diagnosed," he said. "We need proven answers along with the deep insight of the experienced professionals who actually work in schools."

NEA believes the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act must focus on policies that would help transform public schools into high-quality learning centers by recognizing the shared responsibility among local, state, and federal governments. The Association encourages Congress to listen to the voices of educators in developing legislative proposals and offers these principles for ESEA reauthorization:

• The federal government should serve as a partner to support state efforts to transform public schools. 
• A revamped accountability system must correctly identify schools in need of assistance and provide a system of effective interventions to help them succeed. 
• The federal government should respect the profession of teachers and education support professionals by providing supports and resources to help students succeed. 
• The federal government should require states to detail how they will remedy inequities in educational tools, opportunities and resources.   
• State and local collective bargaining for school employees must be respected.
• Targeted programs that support students and schools with unique needs—such as English Language Acquisition, Impact Aid, rural schools and Indian education—should be maintained and expanded.
• The federal government should serve as a research clearinghouse, making available to educators a wealth of knowledge about how best to teach students and help schools improve practices.

Starting immediately, NEA leadership will share the reauthorization blueprint with its 3.2 million members to give them the opportuity to share their opinions with the Administration.

"We intend to engage in a productive dialogue to meet the needs of students, educators and public schools," Van Roekel said.


Learn more about NEA's position on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Read more about how NEA is bringing true reform to schools with the Priority Schools Campaign