Panel to study 'No Child Left Behind'
In spite of the reductions in spending Bush is proposing, does anyone want to bet that the solution to this "problem" will be to throw more money at it? ==== Bipartisan panel to study No Child Left Behind By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY After four years of complaints from parents, teachers and administrators about President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reform plan, a bipartisan commission is being created to take a "hard, independent look" at the law's problems and its promises.
The Commission on No Child Left Behind, to be announced Tuesday, will travel the USA, holding public field hearings and roundtables, culminating in Washington, D.C., in September.
The commission will send recommendations to Congress in advance of NCLB's expected renewal in 2007.
Supported by the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, the panel will be co-chaired by former Georgia governor Roy Barnes and former Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson.
The law's "ideas and motives were good," Thompson says, "but the way it's implemented right now leaves a lot to be desired."
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2002, NCLB aims to raise the basic academic skills of public school children. A cornerstone of Bush's domestic agenda, it focuses on closing the "achievement gap" with low-income students. But critics, including the National Education Association, American Association of School Administrators and the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, say it relies too much on testing and punishes schools with even a few students whose skills don't rise steadily year by year.
Those groups and others also say NCLB imposes new requirements, such as expanded testing, without giving schools enough money, and it does little to help schools hire good teachers.
Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington non-profit that extensively has studied NCLB, says its stringent testing requirements for disabled students and English language learners "don't make a lot of sense" to teachers.
NCLB is a "a grab-bag of good provisions and troublesome provisions. I hope that they would find some way of improving the troublesome provisions to save the good intentions of the act."
Now in its fifth year, the law also has been applied unevenly by the federal government, according to a study released today by the Civil Rights Project.
State legislators in Virginia and Utah have recommended repealing NCLB or exempting states from requirements, but Thompson and Barnes say the commission will not consider such proposals.
"Education leaders in the nation agree that it's a good approach," says Barnes.
Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, says NCLB "caused some rancor out in the hinterlands."
He wants to hear from those on both sides. "It's time for somebody to take a real hard, independent look and make some recommendations."
A list of commission members was not available Monday but is expected to include a teacher, a civil rights leader, a former urban schools administrator and a corporate CEO, among others.
Barnes says the commission won't focus on funding, which is a "purely political" question.
"That is not the scope of this commission. That's a discourse that needs to take place, but not here," he says.
Jennings says funding is important.
Bush has proposed $3.2 billion in education cuts in his 2007 budget, just as NCLB's testing provisions kick in.
Bush is "signaling that in his view, it's a matter of just demanding (improvement) and not helping to pay for it," Jennings says.
Saying it's "the right time" to study the law, he hopes the commission finds ways to improve it. "If they're perceived as just being a commission to whitewash the problems of the act, they're not going to amount to anything."
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