Monday, January 12, 2004

The DLC and NCLB

In this brief interview with Reed in the Washington Post, consider his response to a question about NCLB:
    I don't agree with Gov. Dean's desire to repeal the education reform bill. One of the most important fights Democrats fought and won in the 1990s was to insist on a national role in holding schools accountable for results. Republicans tried to shut down the Department of Education. Now the case Democrats should be making is that we're the ones who believe in reform enough to put some real money behind it -- so that every student without regard to class, race, or region has a qualified teacher and a safe place to go after school.
In addition, consider this snippet from the very conservative Washington Times:
    The centrist Democratic Leadership Council also recently condemned the NEA strategy, calling passage of the education bill President Bush's "one genuine bipartisan domestic policy accomplishment."
    The DLC blamed the NEA for "much of the impetus for dismantling NCLB and promoting a funding-centric agenda."
So I would disagree that the DLC is centrist. But aside from that, I wonder if it's just coincidence that some of the Democratic candidates are weasel-wording their relationship to NCLB. Recently most, aside from Lieberman, are now voicing strong but empty words criticizing NCLB.
    Gephardt:"George Bush is deliberately setting up public schools to fail so he can say there is no choice but to take money away from public schools. There's only one way to fix No Child Left Behind, and that is to leave George Bush behind."
This is Gephardt's standard line: strong words but his solution is to merely provide full funding for a fatally flawed bill but it sure sounds good. Similarly, Kerry, Clark and Edwards does the same thing. The answer is not that NCLB needs to be fully funded.

Dean still is the only one who gets it but additionally has outlined a detailed policy to counter NCLB.
    We need to reform the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in the following ways:
    Fix the accountability provisions. We must set reasonable goals for adequate yearly progress that are fair to students, teachers, schools, and states and do not rely solely on standardized tests; include multiple measures of learning and progress in assessing success; measure individual student growth using "value-added" approaches, not average student scores that encourage schools to push out low-scoring students; and develop appropriate methods to assess students with disabilities and English language learners.
    Give states more flexibility in deciding how and when to assess student learning. States with strong curricula and assessment systems should not have to put aside or dumb down their accountability systems.
    Fund NCLB. We cannot expect states to implement sweeping reforms without the necessary resources. We must provide the resources to help schools offer smaller classes, after school programs, teacher training and other improvements that actually help students succeed. It is also important to maintain the longstanding federal commitment to disadvantaged children and better target federal funds to our most needy schools.
    Leverage more adequate and equitable state funding of public schools through NCLB. Just as we are holding schools accountable for student progress, we should hold states accountable for providing schools with the resources they need to succeed. Federal funding should be used to leverage state investment and give every child a world-class education, Accountability must be two-way: state support for meeting high standards must accompany expectations of students and schools.
Getting back to Reed, it's not surprising that he singles out Dean for criticism regarding NCLB. The rest of the guys are dancing furiously to stay out of trouble.