The American Federation of Teachers and allied education organizations are pressing the leaders of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to move quickly to reconcile competing rewrites of the No Child Left Behind Act passed in each chamber. The intensive phase of the expected negotiations is expected to start after the August congressional recess. But AFT and allied groups don’t want momentum achieved with the passage of the House and Senate versions this month to be lost.
A key issue in the House-Senate talks will be a narrowly passed House provision altering the distribution of Title I funding for schools serving economically disadvantaged students. The House measure, in the name of supporting parental choice, would have Title I dollars “follow the child,” undoing current provisions that concentrate such funding at campuses that serve high percentages of disadvantaged children. The House language also would make it easy later to add an authorization for each child’s Title I allotment to ”follow the child” to a private school—in other words, the provision would serve as a handy docking station for a private-school voucher amendment.
The U.S. Department of Education and some civil-rights organizations are objecting to provisions passed by both House and Senate removing federal mandates of school turnaround policies triggered by state achievement-test scores. Majorities in both chambers have been willing to retain required testing in grades 3-8 and high school. Mandatory reporting of test scores by subgroups (e.g., the economically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minorities) would be retained as well. But lawmakers want to leave it up to the states to decide what weight to give the test results and what corrective measures may be needed.
Many civil-rights organizations agree with educators that the prevailing federal policy of test-driven sanctions for struggling schools has been misguided and unhelpful to students. These groups join in opposing the misuse of standardized tests enshrined in the No Child Left Behind Act and in many state accountability regimes, including the prototype for NCLB created here in Texas that has done many years of disservice to Texas schoolchildren. For a good example of the civil-rights case against the test-and-punish system, seehttp://www.j4jalliance.com/media/openletter/.