Back to Year 2004 - Letters
May 5, 2004
Dear Senator Dodd:
I am writing in support of your proposed "No Child Left Behind Reform Act" as outlined in your floor statement to the U.S. Senate on April 22, 2004. Like you, I wholeheartedly back the notion of improving the quality of education for the nation's students, especially those of greatest need. And like you, I believe that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) must live up to its original promise and intent of flexibility for States.
I applaud the major tenets of your "No Child Left Behind Reform Act," which would:
I also support the addition of Sec. 1120C, which would provide grants to develop data systems and information databases for measuring adequate yearly progress.
Upon examining the draft of your new bill, I was especially delighted to find language that would give "priority to State educational agencies that have created, or are in the process of creating, a growth model or proficiency index as part of their adequately yearly progress determination." California has been using such a growth model of accountability since 1999.
A growth model, as you know, considers the net improvement of individual districts and schools and actually is more congruent with high academic standards and rigorous definitions of student proficiency than the status model mandated by NCLB. Without dropping the key elements of the accountability provisions of NCLB in order to accommodate a growth model, the U.S. Department of Education should make it clear that the status model in Title I accountability provisions is just that — a model. The Department should offer genuine flexibility by supporting legislation, such as yours, to redefine the relationship between federal and state governments in the implementation of these provisions.
Most state education agencies are working diligently to implement the law, providing schools extra resources to the extent of our abilities and focusing sharply on improved academic performance. The reality, however, is that states across this nation face budget limitations and, in some cases, severe shortfalls. This makes it imperative that we focus our resources on schools with the greatest need for improving academic achievement.
I have been in a dialogue about NCLB flexibility with school chiefs from a significant number of states (Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington). These state education leaders agree that flexibility is central to the successful execution of NCLB. In March, we collectively crafted and signed a letter to U.S. Secretary Rod Paige to propose a solution that upholds the purpose and promise of NCLB. (I have enclosed that letter and related white paper for your information.) While all of us wholeheartedly agree with the goal of raising standards and expectations for academic achievement of all students and concur that schools should be held accountable for results as they embrace this primary mission, we also acknowledge a very troubling issue: Calculations suggest that within a few years, the vast majority of all schools around the country will be identified as in need of improvement. Many of these schools will receive that designation despite steady and significant improvement for all groups of students.
As more and more schools enter "School Improvement," it is imperative that we move as quickly as possible to target our limited resources in the most effective manner possible by focusing squarely on the schools that need it most. I believe that your "No Child Left Behind Reform Act" is a great first step to ensure that schools and students of greatest need get the help they deserve.
We will be solidly supporting your bill, and if I can be of further support to you in your efforts to promote NCLB flexibility, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Enclosures [Note: attachment is no longer available]
cc: The Honorable Barbara Boxer, United States Senate
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein, United States Senate
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy, United States Senate
The Honorable George Miller, U.S. House of Representatives