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Public Statements

No Child Left Behind

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND -- (House of Representatives - October 04, 2007)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Garrett) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I have stood on this floor several times now speaking about the negative impact that NCLB, No Child Left Behind, has had on our children's education and, consequently, on our children's future as well.

Tonight I will speak continuously about that as well and the problems until NCLB are fixed. I will continue to speak out against NCLB until parents and educators are empowered to make the changes that will ensure an environment in which schools can teach and children can learn.

More and more information is coming to light attracting more and more supporters to the belief that not only should No Child Left Behind not be reauthorized at this time, but, actually, it should be completely scrapped.

Yesterday, in the New York Times, Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at NYU and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, wrote, and I quote, ``the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed,'' and that it should be ``overhauled, not just tweaked.''

She continued, ``The latest national tests, released last week, show that academic gains since 2003 have been modest, less even than those posted in the years before the law was put in place. In eighth-grade reading, there have been no gains at all since 1998. The main goal of the law--that all children in the United States will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014--is simply unattainable. The primary strategy--to test all children in those subjects in grades three through eight every year--has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects. Furthermore, the law completely fractures the traditional limits on federal interference in the operation of local schools.''

Let me repeat that last point, because I believe that it is a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. NCLB ``completely fractures the traditional limits on Federal interference in the operation of local schools.''

Many times I have referenced the work of Neil McCluskey of Cato Institute, a scholar who shares my concerns about educational policy. He did a study in 2007 entitled, ``End It, Don't Mend It,'' and he concluded that ``NCLB has been ineffective in achieving its intended goals, has had negative, unintended consequences, is incompatible with policies that do work, is at the mercy of a political process that can only worsen its prospects, and is based on the premises that are fundamentally flawed.''

Using several shocking statistics, McCluskey points out how States are lowering, not raising, their educational standards. They are creating a race to the bottom to ensure that their schools will not be denied Federal funding.

Let me give you just a couple. In 2003, the State of Texas decreased the number of questions on their test in order for it to be approved, from 24 to 20. In Michigan, when 1,500 schools were placed on the NCLB need improvement list, the State lowered the percentage of students required to pass the test in English from 75 down to 42 percent.

The State of Ohio backloaded its adequate yearly progress goals, aiming to increase proficiency by a mere 3 percent, 3.3 percent for the first 6 years, but then said they're going to do a 40 percent increase in the last 6 years. They did this of course in hopes of meeting NCLB's unrealistic goal of having 100 percent proficiency in math and reading in all schools. And there are other studies as well with similar conclusions.

In 2005 the Fordham Foundation compared the State proficiency scores to NAEP scores, with striking results. The NAEP tests have generally been maintained at standards over the year, and so it's a good barometer.

In the Fordham study, of the 20 States that have reported gains on their tests in 8th grade reading proficiency, mark this, only three showed any progress at even the basic level for NAEP. That means 20 States are saying that since No Child Left Behind things are going better. But if you compare it to NAEP, really not. Only three.

Furthermore, in a new study released today by the foundation, researchers note that in at least two grades, twice as many States in the U.S. have seen their tests become easier, not harder, since NCLB was put into effect. And that's my point here. All the studies are showing that since NCLB went on the books, States are racing to the bottom when it comes to trying to establish their tests, the exact opposite of what this administration tried to do.

I think all of us should be startled, at the very least, by this. Appropriately, we should be outraged. You know, if Washington is forcing our schools to basically lower their standards, putting our children's education at risk, we must act now in this House to reverse the trend. And with NCLB reauthorization coming up now, now's the time to do it.

To that end I've submitted a bill, the LEARN Act, Local Education Authority Returns Now. It's H.R. 3177. And what it will do is very simply, it would allow States to opt out of the Federal NCLB system completely, and, at the same time, allow the States to retain their funding.

I think, to me, it's very obvious that States have grown tired of Washington dangling money over their heads and holding them accountable. And I thank the Speaker for allowing us to address the issue of the reform that is needed in the area of NCLB and talking about the LEARN Act.

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