Thursday, July 05, 2007

The NAACP and Liberals Are LYING About NCLB by Akindele Akinyemi

As we are preparing for the liberal festival this weekend here in Detroit with the advent of the 98th annual NAACP Convention I wonder what are their feelings about the Democratic response to the No Child Left Behind law that was signed back in 2001 by President George W. Bush?

If I was a betting man they would say it is under funded. The reason I say that? Because Monday at the National Education Association's convention in Philadelphia, PA the top Democratic candidates said it was under funded.

Even though these candidates voted for No Child Left Behind in 2001.

The law, passed with broad Democratic support in 2001, requires public school students to be tested annually in reading and math in third- through eighth-grade and once in high school. It is up for renewal this year in Congress.

An NEA criticism of the law is that it forces teachers to spend too much time on test preparation instead of other forms of instruction, and many teachers wore buttons or stickers reading, "A child is more than a test score."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said she has heard stories about teachers shaping their lesson plans to ensure their students do well on the reading and math tests at the expense of other subjects.

We know that the NAACP is against the No Child Left Behind law. However, education is truly the civil-rights issue of the 21st century. If a child is denied a quality education, his or her future is dimmed by ignorance, indifference, callousness and disregard. Millions of children have been pushed through the school system in years past with little regard as to whether they have learned.

School should be a leg up on life, which is why No Child Left Behind is designed to provide a quality education to all children, regardless of their race, spoken accent or street address. How a civil-rights organization could characterize NCLB as "disproportionately hurting" African-American children is mindboggling, since it is specifically designed to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

President Bush has done more for the African-American community than any previous president, including the so-called "first black president," Bill Clinton when it comes to educational policies. That's a secret some Black leaders in our community may not want millions of African-American voters to know. Leaders like those in the NAACP. But when you ask the tens of thousands of parents who took advantage of the free choice and tutoring provisions under the first year of NCLB, the majority of whom were minorities. Poll after poll has shown that African-American parents support school choice, which is directly at odds with the NAACP's position on the issue.

A clear sign that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is fulfilling its main purpose in shaking up the ossified public-education establishment is how angry teacher unions are about it. Here in Michigan, Democrats and some Republicans have joined the growing chorus of states denouncing NCLB as an “unfunded mandate.” Some here are arguing that Michigan could not possibly afford to provide annual tests in basic reading and math skills to kids in the third through eighth grades, as the law requires.

This is silly, since testing costs little. Educational firms sell off-the-shelf tests for as little as $2 per student; an elaborate one, written especially for a state’s curriculum, might cost the princely sum of $30 per kid.

It’s particularly outrageous that the NAACP implementing NCLB, since the achievement gap between minority and non minority students here in Michigan is among the nation’s widest. One of NCLB’s key features is to shine a spotlight on America’s achievement-gap problem by requiring states to break down each school’s results by race, sex, English proficiency, and socioeconomic status. Again, the Bush administration was sending a message to states that it’s no longer okay to get their white, middle-class, suburban kids to pass the proficiency threshold while leaving minority, lower-income kids behind. Thanks to NCLB, states can no longer hide behind average scores or say that the typical student in a school or district excels. Each individual student now counts.

Teachers’ unions and their legislative allies in Michigan and other states insist that getting lower-income, minority students on the way to proficiency is impossible without heaps of new federal money. But U.S. public schools hardly lack for funds. State, local, and federal spending on K–12 public education has tripled in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1960. The U.S. now spends $500 billion annually on education, more than Russia’s entire gross domestic product—and federal education spending has jumped 40 percent under President Bush. In any case, states can opt out of NCLB simply by forgoing the federal funding tied to the program. NCLB is neither unfunded nor a mandate.

So what is the NAACP and their liberal allies talking about?

NCLB’s accountability provisions are what irk the liberal educators most of all. If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress toward proficiency (each state sets its own targets), NCLB requires that parents hear about it, and then get the option to transfer their children to other public schools, or receive a modest stipend to enroll them in after-school tutoring programs, public or private. The provisions seem to be working.

NCLB isn’t perfect. As Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings admits, such issues as how to test special-ed students and students with limited English proficiency need smoothing out. But NCLB’s key tenets—high standards and expectations, clear measurement and accountability, and consequences for results—must remain, no matter how much liberal educators complain.

The corrosive rhetoric espoused by the NAACP may make headlines and get out the vote in some quarters, but it is counterproductive, damaging and a betrayal of the organization's own origins. I would think our community would be better off looking toward the future, helping our children live up to their potential. Historically, the civil-rights movement has been multicultural, and many of its founders, including those who established the NAACP, were in fact white and Republican.

I strongly believe that the only way the NAACP will return to its origins is when our young adults in the NAACP will begin to understand that family values through education choice will help generate wealth creation in urban communities across Urban Michigan and the rest of the United States.

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