More NCLB!?: Call Your Representative Today! And Tomorrow Too!

Are you happy with the current regime of educational policy led by Sec. Arne Duncan and Barack Obama? Flying under the radar in DC is essentially the new No Child Left Behind Act— more of the same. Rumor is that the House will take up the legislation soon. Now is the public’s opportunity to change the conversation. Stand with the Network for Public Education and provide your input to our politicians. Diane Ravitch writes Call Your Representative Today! And Tomorrow Too!

For the first time in 12 years, a bill is expected to come to the floor of Congress to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as NCLB. The Student Success Act, introduced by Rep. Kline, may be voted on in the House as soon as this week. All parents, teachers and concerned citizens need to weigh in and call their House member as soon as possible. Try calling Monday or Tuesday; detailed instructions and a script is below. Two thirds of the House weren’t even in office when the last ESEA vote occurred; they need to hear from you about what your priorities are for the federal role in public education.

This is what we suggest: please tell your House member that the bill should de-emphasize high-stakes testing — by eliminating the NCLB requirement that states must test students annually in every grade from 3-8th. The federal government should also get out of the oppressive business of mandating how teachers are evaluated; and stop the linking teacher evaluation to test scores, which is unreliable, unfair and damaging to the quality of education.

Instead, they should refocus on the historic role of the federal government to increase equity in our public schools. How? First, Congress should require that states submit plans on how they will improve equitable funding of their schools. Second, they must remove the unconscionable provision in the Kline bill that limits to only 10% the amount of Title II funds that districts can spend on class size reduction.

Title II funds are primarily used to provide teacher training and lower class size. Districts spend about 40% of these funds currently on reducing class size. Ensuring that all kids have access to reasonable class sizes – especially poor kids in urban districts who are often disadvantaged with the largest classes — is one of the best ways to ensure equity and narrow the opportunity gap.

A script is below; a handy chart comparing the provisions of the version of the ESEA bill submitted by Senator Harkin and Representative Klineis here. (The Senate bill hasn’t yet reached the floor; we’ll let you know when it does; but you’re welcome to call your Senators after you call your House member.)

Call the DC office of your Representatives, (you can find their contact info here) and ask to speak to their education staffer or legislative director.

Then say: I am a (parent, teacher, concerned constituent).

I want Rep. ____ to push to eliminate the federal requirement for yearly standardized testing in the ESEA bill; and eliminate the federal role in prescribing how teachers should be evaluated.

Instead, the bill should focus on equity: by requiring that states submit plans showing how they will improve equitable funding in their schools, and by omitting ANY restriction on the amount of Title II funds that can be spent on class size reduction. Smaller classes are a proven strategy to increase equity, and there is no better way to give all children a better chance to learn.

Click for all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on High-Stakes Testing and Accountability.

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

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