Issue Position: Education - No Child Left Behind
The President signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law in January 2002. This law, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is one of the primary laws that govern federal elementary and secondary education programs. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is scheduled for reauthorization this year and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure needed changes are made to the testing mandates that were created under NCLB.
I voted against NCLB because it is not the best approach for Wisconsin students, teachers, and school districts. In particular, I could not support a new, largely unfunded federal mandate for annual, high-stakes testing in grades 3-8. The federal government should leave decisions about the frequency of standardized testing up to the states and local school districts that bear the responsibility for educating our children. While standardized testing does have a role to play in measuring and improving student achievement, one high-stakes test alone cannot accurately and responsibly measure our students or our schools.
There are a number of provisions in this law that I do support, such as funding for school libraries and reading programs, and increased funding for after-school programs and a number of small programs that were at risk of being cut. I was also pleased that the law authorizes specific funding levels for the Title I program and included programs to help rural school districts. This funding is vital for Wisconsin school districts. Unfortunately, levels of funding for the many programs under ESEA have not reached their promised levels.
In addition to my concerns about high-stakes testing, I am also concerned that the President's budget requests for the fiscal years since enactment of NCLB - one of the centerpieces of his domestic policy - have under-funded the programs that he signed into law and have actually eliminated funding for a variety of programs authorized by this law. The federal government has a responsibility to come through with education funds that we have promised to states and local school districts. To do otherwise sets students and educators up for failure with respect to the federal mandates we have imposed upon them.
While I certainly share the President's goal of improving education for all students and closing the achievement gap that exists between low-income students and their peers, I remain skeptical of an approach that relies on high-stakes testing. I continue to hear from people around our state about the negative impact that this law is having in our schools.
Due to the concerns raised by my constituents over the past several years, I have sent letters to the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for the past four years asking the Committee to have a series of hearings on the implementation of the NCLB and its consequences for students, teachers, schools, and school districts. I am pleased the Senate and House committees have already started to hold roundtable discussions and hearings this year as part of the reauthorization process.
A full and deliberative reauthorization process is needed and substantial changes must be made to the testing mandates of NCLB. Please click here to read the latest copy of my letter, cosigned by nine of my colleagues this year. I hope that the ongoing Senate and House hearings will be a first step to addressing the problems with this law and to ensuring that the voices of public school students, teachers, administrators, and parents in Wisconsin are heard during the reauthorization process.
I will continue to monitor the implementation of this law, and I am interested in your views on this and other issues that affect Wisconsin's public schools. Should you wish to learn more about the No Child Left Behind Act, I encourage you to visit the Department of Education's website.