Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324 or 408-921-5769 (cell).
CTA Vice President
Dean E. Vogel
SAN FRANCISCO – Bay Area teachers, lawmakers and San Francisco labor leaders joined California Teachers Association Vice President Dean E. Vogel today in presenting a giant CTA postcard signed by nearly 1,000 public school educators to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to protest her support of unfair reauthorization proposals in the federal “No Child Left Behind Act.”
They also delivered letters from state lawmakers who also oppose the harmful reauthorization language proposed by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and dropped off statements of support from San Francisco labor leaders concerned that the proposed NCLB changes will erode collective bargaining rights in California.
“The Miller-Pelosi NCLB reauthorization plan will make it harder to attract and retain quality teachers in California classrooms,” Vogel said in a news conference in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building where Pelosi’s office is. “It continues to rely on testing as the measurement of student and school success. It creates a new federal mandate to pay and evaluate teachers based on student test scores. Test scores don’t fairly measure student achievement and cannot be used to accurately evaluate and pay teachers.”
Vogel urged Congress to support proven reforms such as enhancing the federal class size reduction program -- with priority given to our schools of greatest need -- rather than wasting billions of dollars on more bureaucracy, paperwork and more testing. It should provide resources for quality teacher training, mentors for new teachers and programs that enhance parental and family involvement in our schools.
The Miller-Pelosi reauthorization plan is the subject of fast-tracked hearings now in Congress. The changes would place even more undue emphasis on test scores, create new sanctions for struggling schools, make it harder to attract and retain teachers, undermine local control, and erode employee rights.
In the CTA news conference today, California lawmakers spoke out about flaws in the federal law, noting that the state Legislature earlier this month passed a joint resolution criticizing the law, calling on Congress to fully fund NCLB and to make its student accountability models more flexible. Congress has shortchanged the law by $56 billion nationwide, and more than $7 billion in California. The Legislature’s joint resolution was sponsored by Assembly member Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who questioned the education law’s punitive approach.
“No Child Left Behind’s approach towards accountability has unfairly penalized many schools and programs in California,” Hancock said. “There is a growing public recognition that states need more flexibility and financial support in order to appropriately implement NCLB. Increasing emphasis on standardized testing and punitive sanctions will not improve our struggling schools.”
State Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D., D-San Francisco, questioned how test scores could fairly be used to evaluate teachers. “Tying a student test score to a teacher evaluation or merit pay is an improper use of student assessment,” Yee said. “As a child psychologist, I understand that there are many factors that contribute to a student’s performance. I support the efforts of CTA to stop this latest version of NCLB, which only makes a bad law even worse.”
Many members of the state Legislature’s Democratic Caucus have signed a letter calling on Pelosi to oppose the merit pay and other harmful one-size-fits all education proposals in the reauthorization plan, noted Frances Hsieh, an aide to State Senator Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, who circulated one such letter.
“We urge you instead to help reshape this measure into one that would empower districts and local associations,” the letter states, in part. “Together, teachers and district administrators can develop proposals that include workable and productive means for recognizing teachers while improving the professional development of all teachers.”
No Child Left Behind tries to use standardized testing to make standardized students, and it’s not working, said Eric Heins, a Contra Costa County teacher in Pittsburg Unified School District and a member of the CTA board of directors.
“The excessive testing has practically eliminated other important programs like art, music, foreign language and physical education,” Heins said.
Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, challenged the merit pay idea as well. He submitted to Pelosi a stack of CTA posters warning about the NCLB reauthorization plan that were signed by scores of Bay Area labor leaders.
“No union should accept merit pay language that bribes workers to perform,” Paulson said. “Teaching only for test scores will drive teachers away from the schools that need them most, and this will only hurt working families across California.”
No Child Left Behind is the misleading name given to the 2002 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was approved by Congress in 1965 to help the nation’s most struggling schools with federal funding and is renewed every five years.
Complete information about CTA’s NCLB campaign is available at www.cta.org/issues/esea/.