Fixing NCLB—Tell Congress to Act Now to Repair Federal Education Law

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has an urgent message for you–we have our best chance in years to correct the test obsession fostered by the No Child Left Behind Act, and we should seize the moment.

As the U.S. Senate committee with jurisdiction over education policy begins hearings this week on how to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently dubbed NCLB), President Weingarten asks you to join in AFT’s petition for a major course correction that would put a stop to manifold misuses of standardized testing, including its misuse in teacher evaluation. Here’s the story, in her words:

We know that our students, educators and schools are suffering from the corrosive influence of the obsession with high-stakes testing. So, we’re calling on Congress to reduce the consequences of this testing in our schools. Join us!

All signs point to Congress reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The last major overhaul, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, got many things wrong.

Testing should never be at the center of education policy, but it has a role to play. That’s why—together with the Center for American Progress—we’re calling on Congress to make the following changes to reduce the use of high-stakes testing:

  • End the use of annual tests for high-stakes consequences. Let’s instead use annual assessments to give parents and teachers the information they need to help students grow.
  • Use the data we collect to provide the federal government with information to direct resources to the schools and districts that need extra support.
  • Ensure a robust accountability system that judges schools looking at multiple measures—including allowing real evidence of student learning.
  • And finally, the federal government should not be the human resources department for local schools, and should not be in the business of regulating teacher evaluation from Washington D.C. Teacher evaluation is the district’s job.

Let’s make sure Congress gets the reauthorization of ESEA right: Sign our petition. 

When President Johnson, a former Texas schoolteacher, signed the ESEA in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, the law was designed to ensure that every school got the resources to teach students, particularly in neighborhoods or districts that were not wealthy. But, over the last 13 years, the core principles of equity and opportunity have been overshadowed by a devastating obsession with high-stakes testing and the ever more corrosive effects of test-based “accountability.” Now, along with parents, educators and legislators, we are standing up to ask for change.

Will you stand with us and sign this petition?

Every education group is taking it seriously, and position statements are flying around Washington D.C. We’ve done the same. And, on Wednesday, we released a statement of joint principles with the Center for American Progress on what we believe is needed when Congress takes on this task.

All students deserve a high-quality public education, and teachers need the resources and support that will allow them to teach. Especially now when more than half of public school students live in poverty, we must ensure that the ESEA stays true to its root focus on equity and civil rights; dials back the destructive impact of high-stakes testing; and sets forth big, bold ideas that will help all kids succeed.

Help us by signing this petition.