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Closing the Education Gap

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 hearings will focus on NCLB’s effectiveness in ensuring high academic achievement for students with limited English proficiency, and for students with disabilities.

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 at the federal, state, and local levels, NCLB has not sufficiently achieved its goals.

In a report released last year, the Center for American Progress found that the gap between the quality of education that the “haves” and “have-nots” receive is still huge on almost every measure of health, income, and academic achievement. Disabled, minority, poor, and limited English proficient students in rural and urban areas alike continue to fall behind in reading and math skills. These discrepancies can no longer be ignored. Currently, one in every five children in the United States is the son or daughter of an immigrant. By 2015, that number is expected to grow to one in every three children.

Academic gaps represent a fundamental failure in the promise of our educational system to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential. These gaps also stifle America’s economic growth and endanger its democracy. The American educational system must produce students who are both competitive with the rest of the world and able to participate fully in American democracy. In our increasingly complex, knowledge-driven and information-rich society, the skills and critical-thinking abilities necessary to serve on juries, choose leaders and participate in civic life are as important as ever. America’s diversity has always been its greatest resource; and it must have an educational system that capitalizes on this strength.

The Center for American Progress has done extensive research on these topics and believes that America can better achieve the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act by putting into place a more aggressive and comprehensive federal strategy. The cornerstones of this strategy should include:

  1. More and better use of learning time.
  2. High expectations, national standards, and accountability for all students.
  3. Highly qualified teachers for every classroom, and strong, effective leaders for every school
  4. Stronger connections between schools, families, and communities.

As the House Education and Workforce Committee continues its discussions of NCLB, we hope that they will reaffirm their commitment to education and consider the implementation of these initiatives when NCLB comes up for reauthorization next year.

For more detailed information on the Center’s education policies, see:

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