Call to action: Public school education - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Call to action: Public school education

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Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 3:30 pm

Recently, more than 800 school board members from all over the United States traveled to Washington, D. C. to ask their members of Congress to improve and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I was privileged to represent the Tempe Union High School District at this National School Boards Association Conference.

The NCLB Act of 2002 was created as a new mandate to end inequities in education. After almost 10 years of school districts around the country implementing this mandate, it is clear that there are some unintended consequences that need to be addressed.

Local school boards have strong support for the goals of the current law, which include strengthened accountability and the focus on performance of groups (race, ethnicity, disability, economic status, etc.).

There is opposition to the overemphasis on high stakes testing, the influence of invalid assessments, mandated punitive sanctions, which are not research based, and an inaccurate and unfair accountability system.

NCLB officially expired at the end of the 2007-2008 school year and, at that time; Congress did begin drafting legislation to reauthorize it with revisions but was not successful in completing it. It then was extended as is, via the Congressional appropriations process.

Reauthorization by 2012 is essential. The tests should be used diagnostically; the assessment system must be validated; the sanctions must be based in research and be effective; the flawed accountability system must be revised.

I was proud to represent Tempe Union High School District, which serves close to 14,000 students in its seven high schools. The district encompasses 162 square miles and serves the city of Tempe, the town of Guadalupe, the Gila River Indian Community, as well as Ahwatukee Foothills and parts of Chandler. The district demonstrates its mission of "Excellence In Teaching and Learning" with its 90 percent four-year graduation rate, as well as its 51 National Merit finalists in 2011 and 20 Flinn Scholars in 2010.

Our call to action is to ask all stakeholders to contact their members of Congress and ask them to support the revision and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. It is critical that lawmakers hear from constituents of the public school districts they represent. This grassroots effort by more than 800 school board members, as well as local constituents from across the United States, is designed to positively influence Congressional action on behalf of our nation's schoolchildren.

Zita M. Johnson is president of the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board.


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