The NCLB Tipping Point
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Volume III, Number 4, April, 2005

The NCLB Tipping Point

Good news!

After several years of steam rolling across the nation with little opposition or public outrage, NCLB-Helter/Skelter has reached a critical juncture - what Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Public outrage and opposition has reached the point where the Administration is on the defensive. The newly appointed Secretary of Education is trying out conciliatory tones and offering token gestures of compromise as opposition to NCLB mounts.

The New York Times reported the shift in an April 8, 2005 article by Sam Dillon:
"Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules"

The secretary of education sought to set a new, more cooperative tone in her response to resistance to No Child Left Behind. (Article - free subscription required.)

In his article, Dillon claims that 30 states have raised protests about the law and mentions Connecticut's suit over the alleged failure of the ED Department to fund its NCLB testing mandates.

Living up to her longstanding reputation for smooth talk and charm, the new Secretary talked nicely while offering little of substance in the way of changes - other than modifying some rules about the testing of special ed students and promising some unspecified relaxation of regulations some day for those who play ball with the Administration now.

Dillon reported that some officials were heartened by Secretary Spelling's offer while others were left unimpressed.

The shift in tone was cosmetic rather than genuine. The rules and regulations remain virtually untouched. Relying upon simplistic and unverified theories about frequent testing as a change strategy, the ED Department clings to a campaign that is doomed to provoke increasing levels of dissent and rebellion as huge percentages of schools find themselves labeled as failures and politicians from both parties come to see NCLB as a threat to school reform rather than an aid.

The Two Faces of ED

By Jamie McKenzie
(about author)

© 2005, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved

Despite the fanfare and promises that accompanied its passage, No Child Left Behind (Helter-Skelter) is proving to be the most dangerous and damaging experiment in the history of American education. It is more about failing schools than fixing them.

A very large percentage of schools is already failing under the rules and guidelines offered by this law and the percentage is likely to increase because of the AYP vise tightening each year.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) provides compelling data on "Schools identified for improvement, or not making AYP, by state: 2003-04."

Their data did not include the following states: Alabama
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island

Click on the chart icon below to see a list of states reported by CCSSO to have the highest percentage of schools not making AYP in 2003-2004.

Source: "Schools identified for improvement, or not making AYP, by state: 2003-04" from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Web site: This document was shared with an Illinois school administrator by a CCSSO staff member but is located as a PDF file "for members only" on their Web site.

Instead of reforming education, NCLB has managed to create a climate of fear and crisis, listing some schools as failing that had actually been making very good progress and had been congratulated by state agencies.

Designed as a Trojan horse to open the door to privatization and charter school schemes, NCLB masquerades as reform while hitting schools with unbalanced mandates that have little to do with quality.

Using threats, punishment, intimidation and failure as change strategies is an entirely untested, unscientific and unconscionable approach to school improvement. It is harsh, unfeeling and likely to do enormous damage to this generation of children.

One need only look to the terrible dropout statistics in Texas in recent years to see where this is all heading.

Note the article "A Lost Generation? A Million Left Behind?"

The Hartford Courant reported on the Connecticut lawsuit in some depth on April 10th (see article).

Unwilling to expand its testing program to all the grades required by NCLB, the state had exhausted all appeals and the state's Attorney General had decided to sue because the cost of expanding the testing program exceeded the federal funds coming to the state.

Connecticut estimates the state will have to spend $41.6 million that federal funding doesn't provide.

In showing her true colors, the new Secretary was unable to sustain her new, nice image when commenting on the Connecticut lawsuit, stooping to playing the race card once again, repeating the outrageous attack employed by the former Secretary and the President. In the Courant's article, she was quoted as follows:

The case has already drawn a prickly response from Spellings, who criticized the state in a televised interview Thursday. She defended yearly testing, saying that it helps find teachers and students who need help. She said it was unfortunate the state was looking for a loophole instead of trying to help minority and poor children improve.

"That's the notion, the soft bigotry of low expectations, as the president calls it, that No Child Left Behind rejects," she said.

NEA, Districts and Parents Sue ED

The momentum against NCLB/Helter-Skelter is mounting as the NEA announced April 20, 2005 that it is suing the FEDs for failing to fund the law's onerous mandates as is required in the language of the law.

Please spread the word to your colleagues that we shall not be silenced or content with a few bones tossed our way by the new ED Secretary who promises flexibility to those who play along with this brand of reform but accuses Connecticut of bigotry when it challenges the worth of annual testing.

Quoting from the NEA release:

Today, the National Education Association (NEA), a diverse network of nine school districts, and several NEA state associations filed a national lawsuit to force the Bush Administration to pay the costs of its own rules and regulations under the No Child Left Behind law.

"Today we're standing up for children, whose parents are saying, 'No more' to costly federal regulations that drain money from classrooms and spend it on paperwork, bureaucracy and big testing companies," said NEA President Reg Weaver. "The principle of the law is simple; if you regulate, you have to pay."

For detailed information, including a copy of the legal complaint go to:

The plaintiffs represent several school districts in Vermont, Texas and Michigan as well as the nation's largest teacher's organization. These groups are filing the suit because the Administration has not heeded the demands of accountability in the law itself which states:

"Nothing in this Act shall be mandate, direct, or control a State, local education agency, or school's curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act."

Since the law's enactment in 2002, there has been a $27 billion funding shortfall in what Congress was supposed to provide schools to meet the law's regulations and what has been funded. Cost studies in Ohio and Texas estimate that the price of the regulations to state taxpayers could run as high as $1.5 and $1.2 billion, respectively.

Joel Packer
Manager, ESEA Policy
Government Relations
202-255-0915 (cell)
202-822-7309 (fax)

© 2005, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.