Fixing No Child Left Behind
by BARBARA WHEELER*
The message from public-education advocates - including members of United Methodist Women - to U.S. lawmakers is clear: Fix the No Child Left Behind Act.
Advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., March 9 for an event sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC) Committee on Public Education and Literacy in conjunction with the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, March 9-12. Speakers urged participants to address the No Child Left Behind Act's shortcomings and work to change the act before it is reauthorized this year.
The act, passed in 2001 and set to expire this year, is the prevailing legislation related to primary and secondary schools in the United States.
The NCC event featured speakers, including educators and education advocates - some of whom are also parents - who are working to repair the federal legislation, which sets standardized testing as the measure of schools' success. The event's 94 participants included members of local churches, grassroots advocates, parents, teachers and others from the faith community.
"Public education is one of the most critical justice issues our nation is facing," said the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, president of North American Region of the World Council of Churches.
Ms. Jackson's opening devotion was followed by a panel discussion with education-policy experts.
"Regardless of the intent, the law has narrowed curriculum to test preparation," said Monty Neill, director of the National Center for FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to preventing the misuse of standardized tests.
He stressed the importance of shifting the law's emphasis on testing and school sanctions based on performance to making systemic changes that will support children and schools.
Members of United Methodist Women attended the event to learn more about what they can do in their communities to advocate for public education and fix No Child Left Behind.
"Public education is the way to the abundant life that we are promised," said Gladys Hubbard, mission coordinator for social action for Eastern Pennsylvania Conference United Methodist Women and member of United Methodist Women at Tioga United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.
Ms. Hubbard retired after working for 30 years as a school nurse in Philadelphia public schools. She plans on making personal contact with her congressional representatives to advocate for public education, and encourages other members of United Methodist Women to do the same.
"I want others to be as outraged as I am," Ms. Taylor said.
Julie Taylor, Women's Division executive and member of the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy, was among event planners.
"No Child Left Behind affects schools in United Methodist Women's local communities," Julie Taylor said. "Some of our members are in communities where local schools are failing, and churches are being approached and asked to become tutoring centers."
The Women's Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, the policy-making body of United Methodist Women, has signed on to a Joint Organizational Statement (http://www.edaccountability.org/about/statement.php) that recommends changes to the No Child Left Behind Act. The statement addresses key components of the act, including progress measurement, capacity building, assessments, sanctions and funding.
Members of United Methodist Women have a history of advocacy for public education. This has included the organization's Campaign for Children - hands-on mission on issues related to children. Phase 3 of the Campaign for Children is focused on public-school education.
*Barbara Wheeler is an executive secretary for communications with the Women's Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
- Public Education: My History
- Take Action for Public Education
- Fixing No Child Left Behind
- Related resource: "Campaign for Children, Phase III: Public School Education" booklet. #3223, available from the Mission Resource Center, 1-800-305-9857.
- URL for Joint Organizational Statement near the end of the story: