Overhauling NCLB: What You Can Do

By Monty Neill

Illustration: Toles
© 2007 The Washington Post

The most important thing progressive educators can do at this time, aside from teaching well, is to help ensure that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) does not reproduce the destructive components of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Make no mistake: if the act is reauthorized without significant changes, progressive education initiatives will remain on the defensive, squeezed out by NCLB’s focus on standardized tests and punitive sanctions.

The first step in overhauling NCLB is to block its rapid reauthorization, and then to press for positive alternatives. This process could move quickly in 2007 or, if progressives are successful in blocking a status-quo reauthorization, continue into 2009.

The main multi-organizational organizing effort to press for positive changes involves The Joint Statement on No Child Left Behind, now signed by over 100 education, civil rights, religious, disability, and civic organizations.

Many signers of the Joint Statement, such as the National Education Association, are also organizing among their members to transform NCLB.

Here are things you can do to prevent a rapid reauthorization that largely leaves NCLB intact:

  • Get school boards and other groups to endorse the Joint Statement and other progressive proposals to overhaul the NCLB.
  • Set up meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Bring a diverse delegation to the meeting, then follow up repeatedly.
  • Lobby your state legislators to pass resolutions in line with the Joint Statement and other progressive alternatives.
  • Hold public forums on problems with the current NCLB and on much-needed information on the NCLB, including various actions you can take to help prevent the law’s status-quo reauthorization.
  • Use the list of Joint Statement signers to reach out to their local and state affiliates.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local paper.

In short, get active, organize and mobilize.

Websites on NCLB

Following is a list of websites with alternatives:

Includes special sections on NCLB, vouchers, privatization.

Leading advocate for progressive assessment practices, information on NCLB.

Large collection of NCLB information, stories, research.

NCLB site of education writer Jamie McKenzie.

National Education Association NCLB site.

American Federation of Teachers on NCLB.

Educator Roundtable and its petition against NCLB.

Public Education Network NCLB site.

Monty Neill is executive director of the Boston based FairTest (http://www.fairtest.org) and chair of the Forum on Educational Accountability (http://www.edaccountability.org), which is spearheading the Joint Statement.