Faith groups lobby for US children's access to literacy and education

By staff writers
9 Jan 2007

The National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) and 20 faith organizations have joined forces as part of 100 national civil rights, education, and disability advocacy groups calling for major changes in the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law - which enacts the theories of ‘standards-based education reform’, based on the belief that high expectations and setting of goals will result in success for all students.

Critics believe that NCLB fails to address deep-seated patterns of inequality in education provision across the United States.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the legislation drawing near on 8 January 2007, the concerned groups have released a ‘Joint Organizational Statement’ which declares that "the law’s emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement."

The number of organizations signing the statement has nearly quadrupled since it was launched in late 2004. The "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law is up for reauthorization during the term of te new US Congress, which started yesterday.

"Demonstrating broad concern across America's demographic groups and throughout many sectors of American life, the 100 signing organizations share by consensus a belief that NCLB is fraying our social fabric by undermining an institution we all value; public schools are, after all, where we shape the future of 90 percent of American children," explained Jan Resseger, chair of the National Council of Churches’ public education and literacy committee.

"Signing organizations are especially concerned that the schools being most severely punished by NCLB's sanctions are the schools serving our nation's poorest children," added Resseger, who is also the Minister for Public Education and Witness in the United Church of Christ.

In addition to the NCC, the religious organizations signing on to the statement are:
American Baptist Women's Ministries; Church Women United; Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism; Council for Hispanic Ministries, United Church of Christ; Disciples Home Missions; Disciples Justice Action Network; The Episcopal Church; Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice, UCC; National Baptist Convention USA; National Council of Jewish Women; National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA; Presbyterian Church (USA); Progressive National Baptist Convention; Protestants for the Common Good; Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund;
United Black Christians, UCC; United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries;
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church; Women of Reform Judaism.

The Joint Statement outlines 14 recommended changes to NCLB including:

? Replace over-reliance on standardized tests with the use of multiple achievement measures in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of student and school performance;
? Supplant arbitrary proficiency targets with ambitious achievement targets based on rates of success actually achieved by the most effective public schools;
? Increase NCLB funding to cover a substantial percentage of the costs that states and districts will incur to carry our these recommendations;

The Joint Organizational Statement and a current list of its signers are online at the new Forum for Educational Accountability website, http://www.edaccountability.org
A copy of "Ten Moral Concerns in the Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act", a statement issued more than a year ago, is available on the NCCUSA website at http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/LeftBehind.html.

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