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HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON NCLB REAUTHORIZATION: Alliance President Offers Testimony on NCLB and High Schools

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“We didn’t get it all right when we enacted No Child Left Behind,” Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller

Continuing its work on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the House Education and Labor Committee held a marathon hearing on September 10 that lasted over six hours and featured over forty witnesses, including Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. The hearing allowed witnesses the opportunity to comment on the Miller/McKeon staff discussion draft for the reauthorization of NCLB, which was released earlier in the month. (More information on the discussion draft is available here.)

“We didn’t get it all right when we enacted No Child Left Behind,” Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA)acknowledged in his opening statement. “In increasing numbers and with increasing urgency, the American people are telling us that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair, not flexible, and not adequately funded.”

Although Miller added that the accountability goals and standards of the current law are “not negotiable,” he outlined several priorities that he hoped the reauthorization of NCLB would address. Specifically, he mentioned a “smarter system of accountability” that would judge schools on multiple measures, rather than a “single test on a given day,” and growth models that would credit schools for gains in student achievement. Miller also said that the new accountability system should encourage states to set standards that would ensure that high school graduates are ready for college and the workplace.

In his testimony, Wise admitted that while he “seriously considered suing to enjoin the law” when he was governor, he has learned that it would have been a mistake to resist a law that “despite all its flaws, was intended to put a spotlight on the startling achievement gaps and to provide all children, including poor and minority children, with access to a high-quality education.”

Noting that NCLB in its current form “doesn’t do much to address what is a significant crisis in this country—the millions of students who are leaving our high schools, with or without a diploma, unprepared for their future”—Wise said he was pleased that the draft plan for revising NCLB takes a “huge step forward for high school reform at the federal level.”

Specifically, Wise praised the Committee for making college and work readiness the goal to which standards and assessments should be aligned. He also thanked the committee for including a new Graduation Promise Fund, which would help turn around the lowest-performing high schools, and asked the committee to include the full authorization of $2.5 billion for the program.

Wise expressed support for the creation of a clear definition of a common graduation rate and for meaningful increases in those graduation rates. He also thanked the committee for including an emphasis on the need to use data to inform decisionmaking and the discussion draft’s support for building and using statewide longitudinal data systems.

Wise also made several recommendations on how the NCLB discussion draft could be improved to better serve high schools and their students. For example, he asked the Committee to strengthen the process for improving schools to reflect what is known about successful high school turnaround and suggested that funds set aside for supplemental education services at the high school level should be used for effective dropout prevention and recovery programs. He also called for stronger incentives for states that choose to work together to establish and adopt common standards and high-quality assessments aligned to twenty-first-century skills and knowledge.

“This draft is a promising first step toward a reauthorization that has the opportunity to leverage powerful and necessary change in our nation’s high schools,” Wise said. “I look forward to working with the Committee to ensure that this reauthorization helps to move us all from ‘no child left behind’ to ‘every child a graduate.’”

Video of the entire hearing, print copies of all witness testimony, and Chairman Miller’s opening statement are available athttp://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/fc091007.shtml.

Bush Instructs Cabinet Secretaries to Reject Proposed Funding 

In the latest battle between President Bush and Congress over Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 spending, the White House has instructed “nearly a dozen” Cabinet secretaries to send letters to Capitol Hill “rejecting Democrats’ proposed new funds for their agencies,” according to a September 18 article in the Washington Post. The dispute centers on $22 billion in spending Democrats added to the president’s budget request for FY 2008.

Calls to the U.S. Department of Education asking for comment on the article went unreturned, but the Post printed part of the letter thatMichael O. Leavittsecretary of the Department of Health and Human Services sent to House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI). “I am confident the [administration] amount set for the Department of Health and Human Services will enable us to successfully accomplish our mission,” Leavitt wrote. “As public servants, we owe it to American taxpayers to complete our work responsibly.”

As passed by the House of Representatives on July 19, the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill would provide $151.7 billion in discretionary spending, $10.8 billion more than the president proposed in his budget. For education, the bill would provide about $6 billion more than President Bush’s budget proposal.

Democrats have argued that the extra spending included in this year’s appropriations bills would restore only a fraction of the Bush-era budget cuts to domestic programs and boost some programs that have been frozen for several years. “Last year, the Republican-dominated Congress was $55 billion over what the president wanted,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “He signed off on that. There were no lectures given about increasing taxes or that it was the people’s money, not the government’s money, not a single lecture given about that. Now, we’re $21 billion over what the president wants and we get all these lectures all the time, ‘This isn’t your money. It’s the taxpayers’ money,’ even though all we’re trying to do is restore what he’s taken from this place.”

“Bush Enlists Cabinet Officials In Fight Against New Spending” is available at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/17/AR2007091701569.htm

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.