Friday, June 08, 2007

NCLB sets immigrants, kids of color and working class kids further behind

As our SF Board of Education debates our advocacy stance on Eliminating NCLB through a policy I drafted with our teachers, parents and the Educator Roundtable, the traditional advocates of Equal Educational Opportunity - Chicano/Latino advocacy groups, liberal politicians, teachers unions, etc. - appear divided on the upcoming re-authorization of NCLB.
Thanks to Judy Rabin of Schools Matter and Duane Campbell of Choosing Democracy for their plug of James Crawford's June 6 Education Week commentary, No Child Left Behind: A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights which helps explain the divide.
James Crawford, president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, argues No Child Left Behind represents a "diminished vision of civil rights" and is actually creating a growing divide in educational equity. The vision of a child's most basic rights to an equal education has been lost and forgotten in an era of accountability and test scores. In fact, in this article, he builds a solid case against NCLB by explaining how the consequences of the legislation are antithetical to the original purpose of ESEA.It is a powerful article because it provide a historical perspective and goes beyond the usual rhetoric to make a case against NCLB as a inherently unjust and unfair law that violates the basic civil rights of children.
But Crawford also gives great insight into how conservative forces have taken the upper hand in FRAMING the issues:

Eliminating achievement gaps is paramount among the law’s goals; equal educational opportunity is not. In fact, the latter term—which had been prominent in previous versions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act—appears nowhere in NCLB. (No doubt an anonymous congressional staffer performed a search-and-delete operation on the bill, just as one did with the word “bilingual,” which was also expunged.)

What’s the significance of this shift in terminology? Achievement gap is all about measurable “outputs” standardized-test scores—and not about equalizing resources, addressing poverty, combating segregation, or guaranteeing children an opportunity to learn. The No Child Left Behind Act is silent on such matters.
Dropping equal educational opportunity, which highlights the role of inputs, has a subtle but powerful effect on how we think about accountability. It shifts the entire burden of reform from legislators and policymakers to teachers and kids and schools.

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