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On November 13th and 14th, 2006, The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, held its second annual Symposium, “Examining America’s Commitment to Closing Achievement Gaps: NCLB and Its Alternatives.” The event built upon the 2005 symposium, the "Social Costs of Inadequate Education," which documented the costs of educational inequities in concrete terms.
The symposium brought together educational experts from across the country to focus on the most critical concern in education today: the achievement gaps between wealthier, primarily white students and those students from low income and minority backgrounds. The symposium presenters did so in the context of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the most sweeping federal education reform legislation in our nation’s history, which Congress is considering for reauthorization this year. The event considered precisely what closing these achievement gaps means and how substantial progress in this regard can actually be achieved. Although a commitment to educational equity and closing achievement gaps are the prime national educational policy goals of the federal government through NCLB and of the many states committed to standards-based reform, little attention has been given to defining specific objectives and practical methods for actually reaching this goal. For example, NCLB's current requirement that 100 percent of America's students achieve proficiency in their state's standards by 2014, though an inspirational focal point for the legislation, lacks inherent credibility.
The symposium featured a series of major research papers, which considered the concrete steps that need to be taken to close achievement gaps for students from poverty backgrounds, for English language learners, and for students with disabilities. Papers presented at the symposium proposed demanding but realistic goals for NCLB and state-based reform efforts and culminated in specific recommendations for revisions to NCLB during the 2007 re-authorization process. A summary of these recommendations will be available soon on this website. Detailed findings and recommendations will be published in book form by Teachers College Press next winter.
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