WHEREAS, in its third year of implementation the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has become a significant force affecting operations and decisions of states, school districts, and schools and the effects of NCLB have grown more obvious and serious; and

WHEREAS, NCLB has articulated the problem, sharpened the focus on the achievement gap, and heightened the importance of standards and accountability; and

WHEREAS, states and local districts stepped up their actions to meet the approaching deadlines for testing more grades and ensuring all academic teachers and paraprofessionals are highly qualified; and

WHEREAS, the law has reached deep into America’s classrooms influencing what and how teachers teach, how teachers are trained, how students are grouped, and how much time students spend studying various subjects; and

WHEREAS, debates have occurred in state legislatures and government, school board rooms, and teachers’ lounges about whether NCLB represents too much of an intrusion on state and local authority and whether the federal government has provided enough funding to carry out the federal requirements of the Act as determined in a recent survey that most states and districts indicated federal funds were not sufficient to carry out all aspects of NCLB; and

WHEREAS, states and districts are reporting that students’ scores on the state tests used for NCLB are rising and survey data also indicate that the Act has focused greater attention on the needs of lower-achieving groups of students; and

WHEREAS, districts and school are providing extra instruction to struggling students and making greater use of test score data to make informed decisions about teaching and learning; and

WHEREAS, some case study data indicate that NCLB is encouraging more collaboration among classroom teachers, special education teachers and teachers supported through the federal Title I program; and

WHEREAS, numerous states continue to struggle with implementing key provisions of the law, especially with testing requirement for students with disabilities and English language learners; and

WHEREAS, numerous state and local education officials, researchers, teachers and civil rights leaders question the overall approach to the current method of determining adequate yearly progress (AYP); and

WHEREAS, one of the problems experienced in implementing the statute has been the capacity of states and districts in terms of both funding and staffing to provide the appropriate assistance to low performing schools students such as helping schools identified as in need of improvement and the districts ability to monitor the quality of supplemental education services including tutoring being provided by outside entities; and

WHEREAS, NCLB does not make adequate provision for “gap kids” – those who have mild mental retardation or other disabilities that seriously affect their learning but are not severely cognitively disabled so that these students still must take the tests geared to standards for their grade level rather than their learning level; and

WHEREAS, testing English Language Learners in a language they don’t understand does not provide valid, reliable, or meaningful information about a student’s knowledge of the subject being tested, but assessments in a student’s native tongue are often not available nor aligned with the state standards; and

WHEREAS, the choice requirement has disproportionately affected large urban districts and only 1 percent of eligible students have taken advantage of this option, but there is a limited capacity within urban district schools eligible to receive these students and has been viewed as a marginal strategy for addressing the needs of the vast majority of low performing students; and

WHEREAS, only 18% of students eligible to receive supplemental education services (SES) actually are taking advantage of them because of poor communication by the district to parents in explaining the options and the purpose of the program; and

WHEREAS, states and district report problems with ensuring that all special education, middle school, and teachers in rural areas meet the law’s requirements to be a highly qualified teacher and this is especially true in school districts with large numbers or percentages of poor and minority students where they are having the greatest difficulty in meeting the highly qualified requirements of the Act; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recommends that national leaders listen to the concerns raised and changes suggested by state and local education officials, educators, researchers and other education stakeholders involved in implementing NCLB which is intended to improve the quality of education across the country. This does not mean relaxing of requirements but acting responsibly and responsively to address the learning needs of all students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the U.S. Conference of Mayors believes there can be solutions through waivers and regulatory changes under the current law that can address the many concerns of state and local officials, school administrators and educators. These suggested areas to be addressed include:

  • Testing and accountability requirements for students with disabilities and English language learners
  • Provide additional funding and other resources to states and districts to expand the capacity to help schools identify improvement
  • Provide states and schools with the resources and staff to oversee supplemental education service providers to ensure high quality
  • Allow school districts identified for improvement to continue as supplemental service providers if they operate tutoring programs
  • Provide plain and timely information to all states about Departmental policies concerning state accountability plans
  • Work with Congress to provide increased funding for NCLB that assist states and local districts in meeting the demands and requirements of the Act
  • Close the disparities in defining teacher quality in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
  • Allow school districts to provide supplemental education services before choice as an option rather than how it is stated in the statute. BE IT FURTHER RESOLOVED, other improvements in NCLB require amendments to the statute that can be taken up prior to reauthorization, but need to be addressed during reauthorization. These include:
  • Re-examine Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) so it does not become punitive and recognizes growth of students from grade to grade as part of achievement for a school rather than comparing one cohort of students in a grade to the next cohort of students in the same grade.
  • Ensure that AYP takes into account academic improvement of students whether or not they reach the establish grade level proficiency.
  • Allow for a limited number of states to experiment with different types of growth models for NCLB accountability that emphasize gains schools have made in student achievement as well as whether they have reached fixed achievement targets.
  • Review the definition and requirements for a highly qualified teacher in order to make them more adaptable to situations and to the reality of the current supply of teachers in specific content areas or serving selected populations.
  • ©2005 The U.S. Conference of Mayors
    Tom Cochran, Executive Director
    1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
    Tel. 202.293.7330 ~ Fax 202.293.2352