Boehner Criticizes Latest Attempt by Education Reform Opponents to Undermine Popular Principles of No Child Left Behind
Lawmaker Urges Education Establishment to Join American Public in Support for Reforms Focused on Student Achievement
U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chairman of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, today criticized the latest Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) annual survey that claims to independently assess Americans' views on K-12 public education.
"It is disappointing, yet not surprising, that education reform opponents continue to seek justification for the status quo and erect roadblocks to reform. Under the guise of public opinion, defenders of the status quo are manufacturing excuses to avoid accountability," said Boehner. "Our nation's students and schools deserve better."
"If you peel back the layers of anti-reform rhetoric coming from some in the education establishment, it is clear that Americans continue to support the key principles of NCLB, and rightly so," Boehner added. "Accountability is taking hold, parents are empowered with new choices, and student achievement is on the rise."
In July, the most recent student test scores for mathematics and reading based on 2004 long-term data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed significant improvements in overall student achievement, with noteworthy gains among minority students. Gains in student achievement are particularly striking over the last five years as accountability-based reforms have taken hold in the nation's schools, and student achievement is up overall within a three-decade comparison.
"The PDK survey presents a distorted picture of public opinion on President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reforms and efforts to expand parental choice in education," said Boehner. "The United States spends more than half a trillion dollars annually on K-12 education yet our students lag behind those of other nations in key subjects, and millions of disadvantaged children do not have the same educational opportunities as their more fortunate peers. The Phi Delta Kappa survey relies on a number of loaded questions carefully phrased by education reform opponents to make it appear the American public isn't bothered by these facts."
For example, the questions in the PDK survey repeatedly suggest - incorrectly - that schools are judged under NCLB based on the performance of their students on a "single test." But NCLB simply requires states, in exchange for billions in federal education funds, to use tests which generate results that can be compared from one year to the next in key subjects such as reading and math. Nothing prohibits states from taking performance in other subjects, in addition to reading and math, into account as well for their own purposes. NCLB not only explicitly bans anything resembling a national test taken by all students, but allows states to design and implement their own tests, and makes clear that no two states are required to adopt the same test.
Under NCLB, states report annually on student achievement, including the achievement of subgroups of students such as minorities and students with disabilities who may previously have been allowed to fall between the cracks. Data flowing in from across America is showing promising signs of increased student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.
* Reading & Math Improvement in Maryland. In Maryland, 71 percent of Maryland 3rd graders passed reading exams in 2004, compared to 58 percent in 2003. Prince George's (PG) County schools have seen impressive gains as well, with student achievement increasing more quickly than in the rest of the state. For example, PG County students posted a 16 percent gain in 3rd grade math, compared to a 12 percent state average, and a 24 point gain in 3rd grade reading, compared to 18 points state-wide. PG County also posted significant gains in 5th grade reading and math that are ahead of the rest of the state.
* Narrowing Achievement Gaps in Connecticut. And in Connecticut, a recent analysis of the 2000-2004 Connecticut Mastery Test results from the state department of Education show achievement gaps are beginning to close. In the Waterbury school district, for example, from 2000 to 2004, African American students have reduced the achievement gap in 4th grade math (by 8 percentage points), reading (by 11 percentage points), and writing (by nine percentage points).
"No Child Left Behind is grounded in solid principles - principles strongly supported by the American public," said Boehner. "States and local communities are pressing forward with these critical reforms with the help of flexibility and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. What the public supports is clear: a quality education for every child in America. That's what NCLB is working to deliver."