By Jim Rice
As Secretary of the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees I believe it is time for our entire community to request that Congressman Olson and Congressman Green, Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn ensure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is reauthorized in 2012.
We are approaching the ten-year mark since NCLB became the federal education law of the land and nearly everyone recognizes the law is in need of improvement. Most school boards across Texas support the intent and stated objectives of the NCLB Act, but we also strongly support amendments to NCLB and revisions to U.S. Department of Education regulations to address barriers preventing our school districts from effectively implementing the spirit of NCLB.
Texas school board members believe that NCLB’s “one size fits all” approach does not allow for a true picture of student and school performance. Under NCLB requirements schools can be deemed as failures even as they make important significant progress in raising student achievement.
Because Congress is four years late in reauthorizing NCLB, the Obama Administration instructed the U.S. Department of Education to allow states to apply for waivers to specific provisions of NCLB to help school districts better focus on improving student learning and increase the quality of education. However, these waivers come with federal strings attached to such an extent that TEA Commissioner Robert Scott has felt compelled to refrain from submitting an application on behalf of Texas school districts for these waivers.
I join the chorus of local school board members across the country in recommending amendments to NCLB that infuse common sense flexibility and increased deference to the judgment of local school boards and educators – those closest to the student. School districts need an accountability system that is aligned with state provisions already in place to ensure high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students, including English Language learners and students with disabilities.
Most importantly, Congress must fund the law adequately so that our schools have the resources necessary for us to help students reach NCLB’s steadily increasing performance targets.
School board members, administrators, parents, teachers and students have provided and will continue to provide Congress with a blueprint of what is needed in order to successfully accomplish the goals of NCLB. It is now up to Congress to amend the provisions of NCLB that are making it more difficult for schools to ensure that our students are receiving the solid education foundation they need and deserve. Failing to act, allowing reauthorization to languish and the law to continue in its current form for another two or three years would be a disservice to our schools, students and communities.
Join me in asking Congress to act now!
Jim Rice was elected to serve on the FBISD Board of Trustees in May 2010 and currently serves as Secretary for the Board. These comments are made by him alone and not on behalf of the FBISD Board. He and his wife Mary have raised 3 sons all of whom were educated in FBISD.