Conservative Viewpoints

"Government is not the solution…it is the problem" -Ronald Reagan

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President pushes NCLB

Posted by Stephen on March 2, 2007

President Bush, visiting an Indiana elementary school, pushed congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, his landmark educational initiative.

“My claim is it’s working,” Bush said at Silver Street Elementary School, adding “We can change parts of it for the better, but don’t change the core of a piece of legislation that is making a significant difference in the lives of a lot of children.”

The President is pushing congress to reauthorize the 2002 law that requires math and reading tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Schools that fail to attain testing goals face consequences that include having to provide tutorials for students, overhaul staff, and even loss of federal funding.

Critics have struggled with steps within the legislation that, according to many educators, handcuffs teachers and prevents innovative approaches to teaching and learning. The President claims that is not his intentions, but stresses the need for accountability in education.

“We didn’t design a federal test because I believe a federal test undermines local control,” Bush said. “But I do believe you need to measure and I know you need to set high standards.”

Much of the recent frustration stems from a purported lack of funding. Educators have long contended that the President has placed mandates on the educational system but has failed to fully fund the initiative. In his budget proposal released last month, funding for the law would increase by a little more than $1 billion with an emphasis on boosting aid for low-income high school students. The latest proposal calls for new reading and math tests to be added in high school.

While some struggle to manage funding the program others struggle with the notion that the federal government is involved in education. The Constitution clearly notes that any issues not addressed in the Constitution are left to the states to address.

Ronald Reagan supported that assertion and called for the elimination of the Department of Education, a call that President Bush claimed he would complete during his 2000 Presidential campaign.

The President not only reversed the closure of the DOE, he turned it into the third largest department in the federal government behind only the Pentagon and Homeland Security. The expansion of the size of the federal government has advanced at an unprecedented rate under the Bush administration. The initiative has cost hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars while having minimal success.

Recent reports have suggested that test scores and students grade point averages are not in line with one another. While students are completing more rigorous courses and posting higher GPA’s, the claim is that their test scores are actually falling, and in some cases failing.

Supporters of NCLB claim that such reports enhance the argument calling for more rigorous testing in addition to an expansion of the law. However, critics state that such an imbalance suggests NCLB is failing.

“After nearly five years the tests have done nothing to improve education. That’s because tests do not teach, they assess, but when all you are doing is teaching to a test you are limiting the scope of education while exhausting valuable resources on a process that has proven to be unsuccessful,” stated Eugene Parker an educator of more then 25 years.

Some educators go on to claim that if testing alone was an answer then such futility would not exist after five years. The website for the Department of Education claims success and progress, yet Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spent much of the past week criticizing progress and threatening to pull funding while resisting calls for compromise.

In Harrisonburg, Virginia, educators are struggling with the demand by Spellings that non-English speaking students be forced to take an English only proficiency test. Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, is considering pulling out all together and leaders in the region are considering their options in the face of the possible loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.

The tension between Spellings office and states across the country is on the rise. Spellings promised to work toward compromise in a collaborative effort when the President asked her to be at the forefront of the NCLB legislation.

Little in the way of compromise has taken place to this point, but leaders hold out hope that Spellings will push for solutions while the President calls for a renewal of legislation that he considers crucial to his legacy as President of the United States.

Stephen Winslow is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.


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