Civil Rights Groups and Teachers Fight NCLB Renewal

Sep 11, 2007

On Monday, teachers and civil rights groups banned together to express their opposition to the draft House bill to renew the federal No Child Left Behind law. According to the protestors, the newly revised bill isn't fair to children in urban and poverty stricken areas and has the potential to set back accountability for years, if not decades.

Draft Bill Summary

  • Lower standards have been proposed for children in urban areas and poverty ridden communities.
  • If necessary, schools can use other factors besides test scores to demonstrate academic strength. Attendance, graduation rates, and other indicators, such as performance in advanced placement classes, will all be taken into consideration.
  • Test scores will be used to grant bonuses worth up to $10,000 to teachers. As of yet, the proposal doesn't indicate who would be eligible for the additional merit pay or how the bonus amounts would be decided.

NCLB Draft Opposition

The debate over the reauthorization of Bush's No Child Left Behind law heated up on Monday when civil rights groups and teacher's unions spoke to legislators at a hearing of the House Education Committee.

Every group expressed concern over the draft House bill that would renew NCLB. The proposed bill makes several changes to the current law, which has been deemed useless and harmful by education activists across the country.

Under the old law, children were supposed to be taught and measured using the same standards, regardless of race or poverty level. The draft House bill proposes changes to the law that will lower the standards for some of the children in urban areas and poverty stricken communities.

The Executive director of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, Dianne M. Piche, said the bill is harmful to students in urban areas and high poverty schools, and has 'the potential to set back accountability by years, if not decades.'

'It strikes me as not unlike allowing my teenage son and his friends to score their own driver's license tests,' Ms. Piche said. 'We'll have one set of standards for the Bronx and one for Westchester County, one for Baltimore and one for Bethesda.'

It does seem unfair to have one set of standards for a specific group and different standards for another, particularly when the original goal of NCLB was to get 100 percent of students proficient in reading and math.

Then again, changing standards may be the only way to make it look like NCLB is working.

Harvard Civil Rights Project research has shown that the current NCLB law has done nothing to narrow achievement gaps and has actually done more to shortchange schools and students that need the most help.

Merit Pay

The other big concern with the House bill is the proposal of merit pay for teachers. The proposal would offer substantial bonuses-up to $10,000-for teachers across the nation. As of yet, it has not been established how the teachers earn the extra pay, although George Miller, chairman of the House education committee, says the bonuses would be directly related to improved test scores.

Reg Weaver, head of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest teacher's union, got into an angry debate with Miller yesterday over the draft's new teacher pay plan.

Weaver said the union would not support any bill that linked teacher's pay to test scores.

The statement incensed Miller who testily responded with an accusation that Weaver and the union were reneging on a previous agreement to support the legislation.

Weaver disagreed, claiming he expressed concern over the teacher provision when it was first brought up and still had reservations about supporting any measure that would mandate a connection between test scores and pay.


(Editor's Note: The NEA is a big political backer for Democrats, so it should be interesting to see how much influence they will have as lobbyists against the draft bill.)


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