Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

No Child Left Behind and Education Reform (continued)

Townsend Lange McNitt, Kathryn L. Wiens, Timothy P. Wiens


February 4, 2011??

Instead of this week’s “30,000 feet” column, we are continuing our symposium, in which contributors respond to the question, "As Congress considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as the No Child Left Behind Act), what are the most important improvements that need to be made in federal education policy?"
The Wonder, Heartbreak and Hope series will resume next week.

As Congress considers improvements to the No Child Left Behind legislation, Members should first agree that the law’s central commitment to the success of every child will be maintained. Rolling back the law’s strong accountability system, as some propose, would most seriously impact minority students and the poor just as real academic gains are becoming apparent and the stubborn achievement gap between whites and minorities is finally beginning to close.

In addition to a strong accountability system, the law should ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school a strong leader.  States should be encouraged to use merit pay and proven professional development programs to attract and retain the best teachers and ensure that school leaders have real staffing authority, with the ability to hire and fire.  

Federal policy should also actively engage parents in their child’s education and give them a variety of quality educational choices.  By expanding successful charter schools, allowing open enrollment at excellent public schools, giving low income students scholarships for private schools, and making virtual schools available, parents can be empowered to choose the best educational environment for their child.

Townsend Lange McNitt is a Strategic Policy Advisor.

As we consider the legacy of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 (No Child Left Behind or NCLB) and its implications for the future of American public schooling, we must realize that schools and school systems can only be as good as the quality of the teachers that are hired to instruct students.  NCLB intends to increase accountability in regard to teacher quality.  Imposing a mandate for teachers who are “highly qualified” is excellent in theory; however, until school districts and unions allow school system administrators to deal appropriately with ineffective teachers by firing the ineffective and hiring and retaining only the highest quality teachers, America cannot count upon increased quality in learning, nor will accountability have any substance.  We owe it to our children to not only hire the best teachers, but to put into place systems free from bureaucracy, enabling good teachers to thrive, therefore impacting minds, hearts, and the futures of the students with whom they come in daily contact.

Kathryn L. Wiens is Associate Director of the Council on Educational Standards and Accountability.

Putting reading first remains an important component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  Literacy is the foundation of all learning and must be given priority when considering the education of our children.  By 2030, approximately 40% of Americans will be English language learners, living in homes where English is not the primary spoken language.  Establishing schools where teachers provide the best literacy instruction will not only benefit those who speak a language other than English, but will enable every child to thrive in a world in which the written and spoken word, relayed with clarity, rewards those who can interact, produce, and lead as a result of the ability to communicate effectively.  We cannot overestimate the importance of language, and NCLB has rightly placed an emphasis upon it as foundational to the best interest of every child in this country.

Timothy P. Wiens is Assistant Professor in Education at Wheaton College.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”