AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The AFT has long championed the principles underlying the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act: high standards for all children, with appropriate tests to measure whether the standards are being met; disaggregation of student achievement data; "highly qualified" teachers and well-trained paraprofessionals in every classroom; and extra support for students and schools performing below proficient levels.

NCLB represents the federal government's commitment to these principles and to the goal of eliminating the existing achievement gap. Since the bill's passage in 2002, the AFT and its state and local affiliates have worked with the Department of Education, state and local education authorities and others in the civil rights and education communities to help achieve the positive goals of NCLB. The AFT recognizes that the principles and goals of the law cannot be met without changes in the law, proper implementation and the necessary funding.

The adequate yearly progress (AYP) formula is a highly inaccurate and arbitrary yardstick for measuring progress. The law sets predetermined benchmarks for students' proficiency without taking into account schools' starting points. Furthermore, its testing of students with disabilities and English language learners is neither valid nor reliable.

The "highly qualified" teacher requirements, as currently implemented, are unworkable for some teachers and do not apply to all individuals, such as supplemental service providers and charter school teachers, who teach public school students. Paraprofessionals are not being provided with the range of options necessary to demonstrate that they are qualified, nor the financial support necessary to meet the requirements.

While the AFT supports targeting resources to disadvantaged students who are struggling to reach state standards, the narrow set of school improvement interventions are not research based and may be punitive rather than helpful to the schools and children they serve. Furthermore, requiring schools to divert scarce Title I resources to support public school choice and supplemental services diverts already limited classroom resources to these unproven interventions.

These problems with the structure and implementation of the law have been exacerbated by a lack of adequate funding from the federal government. It is clear that the increases in funding recommended by the administration for the upcoming fiscal year are far short of what is necessary to get the job done, and what the Congress anticipated would be required to meet the mandates of the law.

To this end, the AFT is working tirelessly to achieve the necessary changes in NCLB so that its promised benefits reach every child.

AFT Resources

AFT Resolution: No Child Left Behind Act (2008)

Antonia Cortese's Testimony Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Sept. 2008

Q&A's (April 2007):

Testimony of Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers, Before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Education and Labor Committee, Mar. 2007

Testimony of Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers, before the Commission on No Child Left Behind, Sept. 2006

AFT's Recommendations for No Child Left Behind [print version with graphics], July 2006

AFT's Recommendations for No Child Left Behind, June 2006

AFT Resolution: No Child Left Behind (2006)

AFT Resolution: Moving Every Child Forward (2004)