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Forum on Educational Accountability Press Release:

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for further information:
Sara Robertson (202) 230-8978
Robert Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
Dr. Monty Neill (617) 335-2115

EDUCATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, DISABILITY, RELIGIOUS GROUPS PROMOTE "REDEFINING ACCOUNTABILITY" TO REPLACE "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" FOCUS ON TESTS AND SANCTIONS; CALL FOR IMPROVING STUDENT LEARNING BY BUILDING CAPACITY

 

Leaders of national education, civil rights, religious, disability and children's organizations today unveiled proposals to replace the test-based sanctions of the federal "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law with means to hold states and localities accountable for making systemic changes that improve student achievement as well as improvements in learning as measured by multiple assessment tools.

The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) report, Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity, includes nearly two dozen "fundamental reforms" in professional development, family involvement and accountability. The FEA recommendations are based on the principles of the Joint Organizational Statement on the NCLB Act, now signed by 106 groups.

"There is a growing national consensus - as demonstrated by public opinion polls - that NCLB's punitive approach undermines its goal of high quality education for all children," explained Reggie Felton, who works in the Advocacy and Issues Management Section at the National School Boards Association. "Instead of being judged against arbitrary Adequate Yearly Progress standardized exam targets, districts and states should be held accountable for making changes that really improve student achievement."
The FEA's proposals would relieve districts of the requirement to spend federal grant money on transferring students to different schools and on private tutoring firms. Instead the funds would be used to intensify staff professional training for educators working in low-performing schools, strengthen parent and community involvement in school improvement, and provide literacy skills for families that need them.

"Building the capacity of schools to effectively educate all children and the capacity of families to support their children's learning should be the primary federal focus," added Jan Resseger, of the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. "This requires fully funding the law so that it covers all eligible children. Anything less is immoral."

"To make these reforms possible, NCLB's system of tests and sanctions must be replaced," said Monty Neill, Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). "States and districts should intervene only when a school fails to implement fundamental changes or when it does not establish a positive trend in learning outcomes, identified using multiple assessment measures, based on rational expectations, in a reasonable time frame."

Joel Packer, Director of Education Policy and Practice for the National Education Association, continued, "The proposals in Redefining Accountability are consistent with recommendations made recently by ten U.S. Senators in a letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy. A broad consensus on the changes that are needed in NCLB is clearly emerging."

"It is imperative that NCLB fairly and appropriately assess students with disabilities," said Daniel Blair, senior director of Policy and Advocacy Services at the Council for Exceptional Children. "We hope that significant changes that will allow that to happen will be made in the reauthorization of NCLB. The FEA's recommendations present a good starting point for us to improve the assessment of students with disabilities so that we have information about how each child is progressing individually, as well as information about the child's achievement in relation to the standardized scores of children without disabilities."

On Wednesday afternoon, February 21, FEA leaders will brief staff of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on the Redefining Accountability report recommendations. This session will run from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building and is open to the news media.

This spring, FEA will release a report on assessment alternatives, to complement the recommendations in Redefining Accountability.

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- the new report, Redefining Accountability is online.

- an Executive Summary and the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB with a list of signers are also posted at http://www.edaccountability.org