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Achieving Public Education Goals

The House Education and Workforce Committee resumes hearings today on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which is scheduled for reauthorization in 2007.

The Center for American Progress strongly supports NCLB's goals to strengthen public education, especially for those who are more often sidelined by the educational system: low-income, minority, and disabled students, and English language learners. Yet due to design flaws and faulty implementation on the federal, state, and local levels, NCLB has not sufficiently achieved its goals.

NCLB requires states to hold districts accountable for bringing students up to "proficient" levels of achievement, yet also allows them to adopt their own definitions of "proficiency." Many states have gamed their accountability systems so that they don't count all subgroups of students. Indeed, the Associated Press reported that about two million of the most disadvantaged students have been missed. Today's House hearing will explore this issue among others.

NCLB teacher quality requirements have been equally disappointing. The Department of Education reports that no states employed 100% highly qualified teachers by the 2005-2006 NCLB deadline. Furthermore, federal, state, and local authorities have barely addressed the inequitable distribution of highly qualified teachers between advantaged and disadvantaged schools.

The result of these shortcomings is that progress in reading and math achievement has been slow. We must ensure that all American children — regardless of race, ethnicity, income, native language, or geographic location — are afforded access to high-quality schools. We must also produce more high-caliber students in order to compete successfully with young people overseas. In order to accomplish these goals, more aggressive and comprehensive federal strategies coupled with stronger follow-up with state and local public education partners is vital. The Center for American Progress has set forth a comprehensive education agenda that should be incorporated into a reauthorized and expanded NCLB.

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