NCLB Feedback

As previously noted, the time is now for everyone with an interest in public education (i.e. everyone) to contact Senate Education Committee chair Lamar Alexander about the reauthorization of NCLB. ( If you’re struggling with what to say in your email, here is a selection of links on the topic to give you some ammo. Take what you want from them, or just copy and paste a link and ask Sen Alexander to read it and share it with the committee.
Here’s Carol Burris’ open letter to Sen. Alexander about the faults with, and fixes for, NCLB. 
A post from AFT President Randi Weingarten reminds us of the background of the ESEA, which was overhauled by NCLB. “The law was designed to ensure that every school got the resources to teach students, particularly in neighborhoods or districts that were not wealthy… No Child Left Behind has failed to accomplish its goals, and its only real legacy is a standardized testing regime that’s squeezing the joy of learning from our schools.”  
This video of linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political commentator Noam Chomsky covers a lot of ground and really digs into the insidiousness of standardized testing.
An NEA Survey reveals ever declining morale among teachers and the fact that almost half of America’s teachers have thought about leaving the profession due to standardized testing. 
Even as Jay Matthews of The Washington Post asserts that  “it is difficult to argue that teachers should not be measured, at least in part, on how well their students are doing,” his column highlights the folly of tying teacher evaluations to the current testing regimen.
To see how some other folks are framing their comments to the Senate Ed. Committee, check out the comments on Peter Greene’s blog post
Sticking with Curmuducation, here’s another post from Peter Greene listing the standard defenses of annual testing and why they all collapse under scrutiny.
Finally, when you send your letter, consider posting it as a comment below to help others generate ideas.
Remember, send your comments to and remind everyone you know to do the same.

One thought on “NCLB Feedback

  1. Dear Senator Alexander,

    As you consider the future of the federal testing mandate, I hope that you will consider not just the voices of those who oppose testing, but also listen carefully to those who support it.

    The strongest argument you will hear is accountability. We need annual testing to hold states accountable to the federal government for money that they are getting. You will hear that we need testing to hold teachers accountable for delivering curriculum. On the surface this seems to make sense. Of course states should be accountable for money they receive, and of course teachers should be accountable for doing their jobs. But look closely, and the speciousness of this argument becomes clear.

    First, how did we get to the point in our society where the bulk of the actual work of accountability falls on the shoulders of children? Rather than having adults monitoring how funds are spent and what teachers are doing in their classrooms, we are robbing students of instructional time, narrowing the curriculum, and creating obscene levels of stress by giving them tests that have no direct benefit to them and which, according to experts in the field (the American Statistical Association), are not valid in the way they are being used.

    Second, the ultimate irony of the accountability argument is that it fails on its own merits. Annual testing has been federally mandated since 2003 and in that time there has been absolutely no progress in closing the achievement gap. The idea that if something isn't working we should keep doing it until it does is ludicrous, wasteful, and, most importantly, harmful to the children we have been entrusted to educate.

    Annual testing is not only harmful, it also fails to accomplish the very issues it is supposed to address, and even worse, distracts us from an honest exploration of alternatives. I urge you and your committee to eliminate this mandate.


    Robert Verbeck


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