Citizens for Effective Schools
 

Campaign Features

Restructuring NCLB Campaign: Key Features
CES continues to engage directly in its own writing, speaking and lobbying efforts to reframe the American school reform debate and restructure NCLB and portions of HEA. In addition, since early 2004, CES has done much of its work through a coalition of national organizations, known as the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA). FEA is a working group from among the more than 153 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, civic and labor organizations, representing more than 50 million Americans, that have signed the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB. The Joint Statement includes principles for restructuring NCLB, as well as portions of HEA, so as to accomplish NCLB's goals.

CES has played a major role in developing and publicly promoting FEA's positions, including serving as Chair, FEA Committee on Capacity-building and as a principal drafter of many of FEA's advocacy documents. (CES was a principal drafter of all the FEA documents below identified with an *.)

The following featured works are important components of CES' campaign to restructure NCLB/HEA. They include: CES' pathbreaking 2003 "Open Letter to President Bush and Congress" explaining how to restructure NCLB; the 2004 Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB; the Executive Director’s seminal law review article on "Why NCLB Needs To Be Restructured"; and FEA's detailed report and legislative recommendations for amending NCLB.

  • “Principled, Sound Middle Way to Education Reauthorization,” Article, Huffington Post (November 4, 2013).

    Although state/local responsibility for public schools is a significant American value, they’re five other similarly significant values that Congress and the Executive also need to weigh in determining federal school reform policy.  Illustrates how fairly applying all six values would lead to sound, principled policy results on key aspects of standards, accountability and school improvement – some supporting Democrats’ positions, some supporting Republicans’, and others, an alternative to both.

  • “After NCLB? Emerging Strategy Shift,” Article, Huffington Post (September 9, 2013).

    While widely overlooked, a shift in the federal school reform debate is emerging - away from NCLB’s tests and sanctions strategy.  Describes emerging policy changes in five critical areas - leadership, instructional improvement, standards/curriculum level, school climate and parent and community involvement and support - especially as embodied in the Senate education committee’s 2013 ESEA reauthorization bill.
  • “Overhaul ‘No Child Left Behind’ now,” Article, The Hill’s Congress Blog (March 14, 2013)

    To avoid continuing to leave millions of children behind, Congress needs to replace the central strategy of NCLB and the Obama administration’s waivers – high-stakes testing – with helping schools improve. Describes what’s wrong with the high-stakes testing strategy and what Congress needs to do instead: what works.

  • “Foreword,” (PDF) by Gary M. Ratner, to The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: A Second Edition of Education’s Missing Ingredient by Victoria M. Young, Rowman & Littlefield (October 2012)

    “Will the United States perpetuate its demonstrably failed and harmful test and sanctions-driven ‘school reform’ strategy, unknown to the leading ‘education’ nations?  Or will we instead shift our strategy to helping our low-achieving schools improve, and our students learn, by doing what works? …. [I]n mid-2012, a dramatic grassroots movement against high-stakes testing has begun in the U.S., spearheaded by school boards in Texas and Florida.  This citizens’ movement should be seen as a significant step toward the bedrock reforms that The Crucial Voice is advocating.”

  • “What’s Wrong with Romney’s Massive Federal School Voucher Proposal and What Should Congress Do Instead?,” Article, Huffington Post (October 12, 2012)

    Criticizes Romney’s $25 billion/yr. federal school voucher proposal as a radical, unjustified, unworkable and anti-democratic intrusion on states’ responsibility for public education.  Instead, identifies six major policies Congress should adopt to help public schools improve.

  • “What’s Wrong with NCLB and What Should Replace It?,” (PDF) Talk to Save Our Schools (SOS) National Convention Workshop, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, D.C. (August 4, 2012)

    Explains key elements of NCLB and false assumptions on which it’s based, harms it causes, how reform strategy should instead be built on common elements and practices of successful school turnarounds, and what specific federal policies should be enacted in ESEA reauthorization to accomplish that.

  • “Key Changes Required in ESEA/NCLB,” (PDF) (August 3, 2012) - Part of above SOS Workshop

    Describes 8 important policies that Congress should enact to redirect NCLB/ESEA from tests and sanctions to helping schools improve.  These include establishing a school leadership academy to train experienced principals to lead turnarounds of low-achieving schools and requiring lowest-achieving schools specially funded to engage in turnarounds to implement the common elements and practices of successful turnarounds.

  • “A New Paradigm for American School Reform: from ‘High-Stakes Testing’ to ‘Helping Schools Improve’,” (PDF) Talk to Institute for Educational Leadership Washington Policy Seminar 2012, Renaissance Hotel, D.C. (April 23, 2012)

    Addresses four questions: 1) what are the purposes of American education and Title I of ESEA, in particular? 2) What’s wrong with high-stakes testing as the strategy for accomplishing those purposes? 3) What strategy should replace high-stakes testing? and 4) What must happen to reach common ground on replacing “high-stakes testing” with “helping schools improve”?

  • “School Turnarounds and School Improvement for the ESEA Reauthorization: Focusing on What Works,” (PDF) Talk to Forum on Educational Accountability Capitol Hill Briefing, Rayburn House Office Building, D.C.  (March 14, 2012)

    Describes: key research on what works to help schools improve and students learn; the intended meaning of “school turnaround”; the common elements and practices of successful turnarounds; a sound process for conducting them; what policies should Congress adopt to promote successful turnarounds; and how far have the Senate and House, respectively, gone to do so.

  • “What’s Necessary for Congress to ‘Get It Right’ on School Turnarounds?,” Article, Huffington Post (February 8, 2012)

    Compares and critiques Senate and House education committee ESEA reauthorization bills on important school turnaround issues, including: training for turnaround leaders, implementation of common elements, staff replacement, performance measures and percent of schools subject to mandatory turnaround.

  • "NCLB Waivers Should Not Be Unconditional: New Accountability Strategy Needed," Article in Huffington Post (August 25, 2011)

    Urges Secretary Duncan to condition waivers of NCLB’s unrealistic and harmful “tests and sanctions” accountability system on states instead working, within funding available, toward implementing a realistic and effective strategy: adopting common elements actually used by schools which successfully turn around.

  • "Where’s the Evidence? Serious Inadequacy of ‘Race To The Top’ School Turnaround Models,"Article in Huffington Post (May 24, 2011)

    Explains how the four RTTT turnaround models are seriously defective and inadequate, especially  with respect to: automatic removal of principals and teachers; converting to charters; and closing schools. 

  • "How to Overhaul NCLB to Help Schools Improve: Implement Common Elements of Success," Article in Huffington Post (March 23, 2011)

    Explains why paradigm shift is necessary in ESEA debate on federal role in education: from “tests and sanctions” to helping schools improve.  Require federally-funded “turnaround schools” to implement the common elements of successful school turnarounds and other Title I-funded schools to publicly report implementation status.  Provide federal funding to help states support local implementation. Identifies key common elements and sub-elements.

  • "What’s Wrong with NCLB? False Premises and Harmful Effects," Article in Huffington Post (March 7, 2011)

    Describes how NCLB is built on false premises, including that schools already have the knowledge, skills and other resources needed to dramatically improve student learning - they just need to be pressured to try harder.  Identifies harms caused by NCLB, including teaching to the test and narrowing the curriculum.

  • "Four Key Areas for Overhauling the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, " (PDF) Talk to National Council of Teachers of English Government Relations Subcommittee, Capitol Hill (January 27, 2011)

    Analyzes NCLB’s treatment of assessments, accountability, school improvement/capacity building and school turnarounds and explains FEA’s policy recommendations in these areas. Addresses recommendations of CES and FairTest re: school inspectorates/school quality reviews; the “Teacher and Principal Improvement Act” bill - by Senator Jack Reed (R. Is.), S. 3242 (2010); and common elements of successful school turnarounds. And describes School Leadership Academy bill - the “Lead Act” - sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Cong. Donald Payne (N.J.), S.3469/H.R.5495 (2010), and initiated and advocated by CES.

  • “Proposed Outline for ‘States Helping Schools Improve Act’ - Discussion Draft,” (PDF) Gary Ratner and Monty Neill (September 24, 2010)

    Proposal to establish federal pilot program to fund selected States to provide professional school quality review (SQR) teams to evaluate, and make recommendations to improve, low-performing schools.  Includes discussion of: proposed statutory findings, purposes, SQR process and frequency, coordination with state technical and resource assistance, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and projected cost.

  • “States Helping Schools Improve Act: One Page Summary,” (PDF) Gary Ratner and Monty Neill (September 23, 2010)

    One page summary of preceding “Proposed Outline for States Helping Schools Improve Act - Discussion Draft”.

  • "Enhancing School and Family Capacity to Support Student Success" (PDF), Talk to Forum on Educational Accountability Symposium, Capitol Hill (June 29, 2010)

    Summarizes key CES advocacy and research related to how to improve school and family capabilities to support student learning, including: the newly filed "Lead Act" bill, S. 3469 and H.R. 5485, to establish a School Leadership Academy to train experienced educators as school turnaround leaders; the common elements of successful school turnarounds; and how states could use school inspectorates to enhance school effectiveness.

  • "A Research – and Experience – Based Turnaround Process" (PDF), FEA Proposal for New Federal Approach to School Turnarounds (June 17, 2010)*

    Relying heavily on "Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds" paper below, describes five key strategy areas schools identified for turnaround should be required to address. Also recommends processes for initial school evaluation, turnaround plan preparation, approval, implementation, support, review and public reporting.

  • "Lead Act" Bill, S. 3469 and H.R. 5495, 111th Cong., 2d Session (PDF), introduced by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Sherrod Brown (Oh.) and Congressmen Donald Payne (N.J.) and Russ Carnahan (Mo.), respectively (June 9, 2010)

    "A Bill To build capacity and provide support at the leadership level for successful school turnaround efforts" by creating a "School Leadership Academy" to develop and teach a state-of-the-art framework for training experienced principals to lead, and other school officials to mentor, successful turnarounds of low-performing public schools, with Academy being brought to scale by affiliated regional "school leadership centers of excellence." Bill evolved from CES' proposed "National Education Leadership Academy Act" draft bill (PDF) cited in In the News and described in "National Education Leadership Academy Briefing Paper" below.

  • "National Education Leadership Academy Briefing Paper" (PDF), Revised Draft, by Gary Ratner (October 9, 2009) - (Excerpts)

    Describes: the reasons why a national academy is needed now to create and teach a state-of-the-art curriculum and pedagogy for training experienced educators in the best strategies and approaches for leading turnarounds of our chronically low-performing schools, especially the approximately 5,000 schools in "restructuring" under NCLB; how the Academy should be brought to scale through regional campuses; why it should be federally established and chiefly federally funded; how the Academy would differ from existing school leadership training organizations, etc.

  • "Common Elements of Successful School Turnarounds: Research and Experience" (PDF), by Gary Ratner, with Monty Neill, prepared as background paper for House Education & Labor Committee Hearing on "Research and Best Practices on Successful School Turnaround," May 19, 2010 (May 14, 2010)

    As a result of having separately analyzed a diverse range of research and experience on school improvement, concludes that successful school turnarounds have typically engaged in common strategies. Divides these strategies into the following five categories: 1) "Leadership: principal, teachers and other stakeholders;" 2) "Instructional improvement;" 3) "Curriculum: challenging, rich, culturally relevant and aligned;" 4) "Climate: high expectations, respect, support and safety;" and 5) "Parent and community involvement and support." Briefly describes the specific strategies in each category and cites research support.

  • "Proposed Additions, and Other Revisions, to Requirements for 'Transformation Model,' as contained in Notice of Proposed Requirements, School Improvement Grants, 74 F.R. 43109-10 (Aug. 26, 2009), and to Related Turnaround Requirement of 'Blueprint'" (PDF), by Gary Ratner and Monty Neill (April 28, 2010)

    Recommends additional or revised policies, along with proposed regulatory language, to strengthen the Administration's "Transformation Model" for school turnarounds, as well as certain proposed revisions to School Improvement Grants generally and to all "turnaround models" in the "Blueprint."

  • "FEA Recommendations to House Education and Labor Committee re Policies for ESEA Reauthorization, including Comments on Administration's 'Blueprint'", (March 26, 2010)*

    Provides comprehensive, far-reaching and integrated policy recommendations for overhauling ESEA in the areas of assessment, accountability, school improvement/capacity-building and opportunity to learn, and the reasons therefor. Concurrently, appreciates certain elements of the Administration's "Blueprint," including its call for essentially ending AYP for most of the nation's schools, ending the requirement that 20% of Title I funds be spent for tutoring and transfers, and including the concept of "school quality reviews" to help schools improve.

  • "What's Required: A Paradigm Shift in School Reform, from 'Tests and Sanctions' to 'Helping Schools Improve" (PDF), by Gary Ratner, Talk to Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill (March 24, 2010)

    Calls for replacing establishment's widespread treatment of "school reform" as equivalent to implementing "tests and accountability" by instead recognizing that "school reform" means "taking the actions necessary to help schools improve." Relies heavily on 1997 article by Norman Augustine, then Chairman of Business Roundtable's Education Task Force, effectively acknowledging that "standards, assessments and accountability" were only 3 of 9 necessary components of successful school reform, and explicitly stating that "[l]eaving any one of [the other 6 components] out of a reform agenda, [let alone all six] will sharply reduce the chances of success."

  • "Advocacy to Restructure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Working with Coalitions" (PDF), Talk to Learning Disabilities Association of America Annual Conference: Session on Advocacy in Action, Baltimore, Maryland (February 19, 2010)

    Includes discussion of how NCLB is structured, the contrast between FEA’s approach to changing NCLB and the Obama/Duncan approach and the differences in their premises, and the ESEA advocacy challenges facing FEA.

  • "Integrating 'Helping Schools Improve' with 'Accountability' under ESEA: The Key Role For Qualitative, As Well As Quantitative, Evaluations And The Use of Inspectorates" - Working Paper II (PDF), by Gary Ratner and Monty Neill (December 15, 2009)

    Explores, in some depth, how having states establish a corps of accomplished and specially trained education leaders (similar to the English school inspectorate of 1993-2005) to provide independent, on-site, periodic reviews, evaluations and recommendations for helping Title I-funded schools improve could significantly advance that goal. Emphasizes viability of such an outside review system depends on concurrently enhancing state and local capacity to provide technical assistance and supplementary resources, so that it would be possible to carry out reviewers' recommendations.

  • "Executive Summary, Working Paper II: 'Integrating "Helping Schools Improve" with "Accountability,"'" (PDF), by Gary Ratner and Monty Neill (December 15, 2009)

    A two page summary of the above sixteen page Working Paper II. N.B.In addition, Ratner and Neill prepared two other papers answering a series of questions by representatives of the U.S. Department of Education about how school inspectorates could most effectively be adapted to the U.S. Those papers are available by request to CES. Please Contact Us.

  • "Proposed Requirements for 'School Improvement Grants' Have Some Valuable Content, But Need Substantial Revision", FEA Comments on Secretary of Education's Notice of Proposed Requirements for "School Improvement Grants" (SIG) (September 25, 2009)*

    FEA's public comments on Secretary Duncans proposed requirements for $3.5 billion SIG program.  Comments address: replacement of staff; assessments; professional development; family and community support and involvement; curriculum; charter schools, CMOs and EMOs; resources; flexibility; state technical assistance capacity; reporting; and funding cut-offs after one or two years.

  • "Draft Guidelines for Race to the Top Has Some Good Ideas, But Priorities Need Changing" (PDF), FEA Comments on Secretary of Education's Notice of Proposed Priorities, Requirements, Definitions and Selection Criteria for "Race to the Top Fund" (RTTT), (August 27, 2009)*

    FEA's public comments on Secretary Duncan's proposals for how to implement the $4.3 billion RTTT program.  Comments address: which factors should be given the most weight; assessments; data collection/opportunity to learn; teacher and principal quality; school turnaround; family engagement; and improving state capacity.

  • "Empowering Schools and Improving Learning: A Joint Organizational Statement on the Federal Role in Public Schooling", Forum on Educational Accountability (June 11, 2009), including list of national organizational signers

    FEA's second overall, and expanded, statement on what the ESEA reauthorization should contain, including a new section on improving state data collection and strategy for enhancing equity and adequacy of resources, as well as more detailed policies on capacity building and accountability.  Also includes a separate "vision" for what American public education should be.

  • "Extending ESEA 'Accountability' Beyond Student Performance to Measuring, Scoring, Evaluating and Reporting Implementation of Systemic Changes - A Working Paper" (PDF), by Gary Ratner and Monty Neill for FEA (October 17, 2008)

    Addresses six key reforms in professional development and family support that the ESEA reauthorization should require all of the highest poverty and lowest achievement Title I-funded schools to implement, and then, to regularly measure, score, evaluate and to report on the status of their implementation. Paper shows how these six systemic factors - that cannot be precisely quantified - could still be appropriately measured, scored, evaluated and reported. Measurement and reporting of such non student-performance factors is essential to shift the emphasis of ESEA "accountability" from sanctioning schools for failing test scores to holding them responsible for implementing systemic improvements. (This is only a "working paper" in that it is intended to show that schools could be held accountable for implementing systemic improvements and a basic approach for how to do this, but it does not go in depth into all six factors, is not based on a literature review, could need changes in details and invites further thinking by others.)

  • "Brief Thoughts on the Nature, Scope and History of the African American Achievement Gap, with Emphasis on the Impact of Education Law and Policy," (PDF) Talk to Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Issue Forum, Capitol Hill (March 6, 2008)

    Includes dramatic 2007 NAEP statistics on the current African American achievement gap, as well as how slavery began, and post-Civil War "separate and unequal" policies, "tracking", the state "standards, assessments and accountability" movement and the No Child Left Behind Act perpetuate, the achievement gap.

  • FEA Letter to Presidential Candidates, "Changing the Education Debate in 2008" (PDF) (December 19, 2007)*

    Sent by FEA to every Presidential candidate, Republican and Democrat.  Urges each candidate to grab the unique opportunity of this campaign to reframe the debate on the federal role in school reform by adopting FEA's principles and legislative recommendations.

  • FEA Chart Contrasting Positions of NCLB and FEA (PDF), with accompanying Letter to all Members of Congress (November 5, 2007)*

    Chart contrasts: the overall assessment and accountability approaches of the current law and FEA's recommendations; their underlying assumptions; each approach's effects on schools' behavior; policies on critical elements; objections raised to each approach; and their predictable results.

  • FEA Recommendations to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (PDF) ("Senate Education Committee") to reframe NCLB's approach to professional development (September 20, 2007)*, with similar Recommendations to House Education and Labor Committee (PDF) ("House Education Committee") (September 28, 2007)*

    Focuses, in part, on the need for ESEA to: require high poverty/low performing Title I-funded schools to regularly allocate time for, and provide, critical staff development now, rather than waiting years – until they fail Adequate Yearly Progress – to improve; increase the mandated funding allocated for professional development from about 10% to 20%, with a required 20% state match for this purpose; and require localities and states to publish annual narrative reports on what steps they've taken to implement the required systemic improvements, obstacles faced and actions taken to surmount the obstacles.

  • FEA Recommendations to House Education and Labor Committee (PDF) ("House Education Committee" to Amend Title II of Miller/McKeon Discussion Draft, ESEA Reauthorization bill (September 18, 2007, incorporating revisions of October 30, 2007)*

    Chiefly focuses on recommendations to enhance professional development of teachers.

  • FEA Recommendations to House Education Committee (PDF) to amend Title I of Miller/McKeon Discussion Draft, ESEA Reauthorization bill (September 5, 2007)*

    Detailed explanation of various changes needed to make Title I of Discussion Draft compatible with FEA's overall ESEA legislative recommendations.

  • FEA Letter to Senate and House Education Committees (PDF) rebutting criticism of FEA by Secretary Spellings and Education Trust (June 21, 2007)*

    Refutes arguments for perpetuating NCLB mandate that all students score "proficient" by 2014 and reliance on a single state standardized test in reading and math.

  • FEA Legislative Recommendations to Senate Education Committee to amend ESEA (PDF), "Proposed ESEA/NCLB Amendments" (March 30, 2007)*, with same Recommendations to House Education Committee (April 5, 2007)*

    Comprehensive legislative language and specifications to amend ESEA to carry out recommendations of FEA-authored report on capacity building and FEA-commissioned report on assessments. Includes important changes needed in ESEA to build the capacity of public school stakeholders, focusing on specific systemic changes required in: professional development of teachers, principals and pupil services personnel; adult literacy and parenting skills for families, and adult mentors for children without families available; and changes in the accountability and funding schemes to redirect accountability from tests and sanctions to implementing systemic changes to improve learning.

  • FEA Recommendations to Senate Education Committee (PDF) to amend Higher Education Act reauthorization bill on teacher preparation and certification (March 26, 2007)*, with similar Recommendations to House Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness Subcommittee (PDF) (May 15, 2007)*

    Advocacy to integrate coursework with, and greatly lengthen, clinical preparation of teachers, adopt strategies to enable teachers to teach higher-order skills, and apply comparable standards for "highly qualified teachers" to traditional candidates and those from alternative routes to certification.

  • Gary Ratner, "Why The No Child Left Behind Act Needs To Be Restructured To Accomplish Its Goals and How To Do It" (PDF), University of the District of Columbia Law Review, 9 UDC/DCSL L. Rev. 1 (Winter/March 2007)

    In-depth analysis of: NCLB's goals, assessment results, and gaps in student achievement between poor and minority students and their peers; NCLB's structure; respects in which it is based on faulty premises and therefore needs to be restructured to accomplish its goals; and how to do so.

  • FEA's Report, "Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity" (PDF) (February 2007)*

    Detailed summary and analysis of critical changes needed in ESEA policy. (This report provided the foundation for many of the legislative changes described in the FEA Legislative Recommendations above.)

  • Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind Act (October 21, 2004), including list of 137 national organizational signers as of June 26, 2007*

    FEA's founding document. Central theme: "Overall, the law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement." Includes declaration of 14 principles for restructuring NCLB to accomplish its goals, including accountability, assessments, capacity building, sanctions and funding.

  • Open Letter to President Bush and Congress (PDF), "To Accomplish 'No Child Left Behind' Act Goal of Academic Competence for All Students, We Need To Move Beyond 'Accountability'" (October 15, 2003)

    CES' path-breaking call for fundamentally amending NCLB's entire Adequate Yearly Progress –based accountability strategy, and portions of the Higher Education Act, to concentrate on providing: effective preparation and training of teachers, principals and superintendents; intensive adult literacy and parenting skills training for families of very low-performing students and adult mentors for such children without families available; and funding for these systemic reforms chiefly by the federal government.
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