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Should NCLB be Changed?

 With reauthorization of the federal government's largest education program just around the corner, teachers, parents, scholars and policymakers are all asking the same questions. Now in its fourth year, is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) making a difference in schools across the country? Is NCLB narrowing achievement gaps?

On Monday, November 13 and Tuesday, November 14, The Campaign for Educational Equity's second annual symposium, "Examining America's Commitment to Closing the Achievement Gap: NCLB and Its Alternatives," will bring education experts from across the country to explore these and other related questions. "The purpose of this conference is to consider precisely what closing these gaps mean and how substantial progress in this regard can actually be achieved," said Michael Rebell, Executive Director of The Campaign for Education Equity. "Although a commitment to educational equity and closing achievement gaps are the prime national educational policy of the federal government through NCLB, little attention has been given to defining specific objectives and practical methods for actually achieving this goal."

TC's Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education, will provide the backdrop for the conference with the history of federal equal educational law, state standards-based reform and the emergence of NCLB.  "According to the text of the law, NCLB was passed with the intent -'to ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic standard,'" said Wells.

Studies to be presented at the conference will explore what it means to close the achievement gap for students with disabilities, particularly those served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Drawing on several national data sets, Margaret McLaughlin of University of Southern California will present the impact of NCLB on special education programs in schools and school systems.

According to Eugene Garcia, of Arizona State University, it is estimated that in 2005 there were seven million students in U.S. schools speaking a primary language other than English. Garcia will discuss the impact that NCLB has had on English Language Learners and the schools they attend.

Michael Nettles of Educational Testing Service will present data on the achievement gaps for African American students as measured on numerous scales and will discuss NCLB as a national policy aimed at expanding opportunities for closing those gaps.

Other presenters will discuss the role of the federal government in setting education policy.  Professor Robert Schwartz, of Harvard, will discuss the questions: Can the federal government ensure that all states adopt rigorous, broad educational standards and aligned curricula, and assessment instruments? What are the implications if it cannot?

Susanna Loeb, of University of California-Berkeley, will respond to the question: Can the federal government ensure that all teachers in schools with substantial proportions of low-achieving students are in fact "highly qualified"?

Finally, Campaign consultant Richard Rothstein, of the Economic Policy Institute, and Robert Linn, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, will explore one of NCLB's most controversial topics - the measurement of schools' adequate yearly progress (AYP). Rothstein will address what AYP outcomes can be expected by 2014 (the date by which the law requires all students to achieve proficiency in reading or math) - or thereafter - and if a "fair equal and substantial opportunity for high quality education" is actually provided to all students. Rothstein will also propose alternative models to AYP.

The symposium will be held in the new Cowin Center at Teachers College. Advanced registration is required. To register and to get additional information about the Symposium, please go to

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