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Working for More School Accountability and Opportunity for Our Children

Feb 26, 2008

        Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders. The school must be an agent of accountability and opportunity for our children to dream so that they can become the next generation of leaders in American innovation. That is a worthy promise we must make and uphold because in the end, it is not only our children’s future, but America’s future.

        In 2002, the “No Child Left Behind” education bill was signed into law. While I support its underlying intent of school accountability to help prevent children from falling behind, after five years of experience, I believe we need to improve that law. No matter how difficult, I am hopeful that together, teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and elected officials can find consensus regarding important education policies. While the debate over the Federal Government’s “No Child Left Behind” policy is often divisive, pitting Republicans against Democrats, teachers against parents, administrators against elected officials, we cannot lose sight of our purpose: our children. We owe it to them to work together to find a workable solution. That is why over the past year, I have met and listened to interested parties including teachers, parents, principals, and superintendents to seek out areas of consensus we can all agree on. Comments were taken seriously because these individuals have dedicated their lives to educating our children.

        The list below is not exhaustive, but one designed to help our children compete in a global economy. Our children are not only going to compete with children from Massachusetts, they are going to compete with children from India and China. We need to prepare our children for this global economy. While there are other areas to examine, I strongly believe that the following five recommendations ought to be incorporated into “No Child Left Behind” legislation set to be renewed later this year, and I shared these views with leaders in Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Education:

  • First, growth models are a better way to measure progress of students because this method focuses on the student as not just a number in the classroom, but as an individual. Growth models reflect the reality that students are unique and enter the classroom with different skills. This model focuses on each student and the student’s progress each year over the duration of their K-12 education, accurately reflecting the efforts of teachers and schools to educate students.
  • Second, we should empower schools along with local and state authorities to identify qualified and effective teachers because they know who successful teachers are, as opposed to the federal government in Washington. A top-down, Washington-imposed structure can do more harm than good in less populated areas with small schools.
  • Third, while we should set a goal of testing all students, we also must be aware that this may not reflect the reality of the classroom as there are always student absences or parents choosing to exempt their children from assessment. Thus, we should not punish schools for actions beyond their control, but also ensure there is strong student participation in the annual standardized accountability tests.
  • Fourth, we must secure our borders. Illegal immigration affects many aspects of our lives, including our education system. By securing our borders and enforcing current laws on the books, our children and schools can be more successful. Additionally, English should be the official language for our children so that they receive a first-rate education and have the language skills to be successful throughout their lives. Our schools should be held accountable for meeting this goal; however, teachers must be given the flexibility and tools to reach this standard, particularly for English Language Learners.
  • Fifth, schools must be given greater flexibility to take corrective action to focus resources on students who are not testing proficient in specific areas in order to better ensure student academic growth and achievement.

        Congress must fulfill its obligations and fund its commitments. However, America’s future will not be measured solely by funding, but also by a commitment to invest and reform our children’s education system through smarter standards. America is driven by bold ideas and a willingness to confront bold challenges. As a parent of two children in California public schools, a former Trustee Member of the Kern Community College District, and now as your Representative, I know the importance of a quality education system for our children. We should, and we must, come together to reform No Child Left Behind in a sensible way to move our children’s education forward and provide a quality education to all students.