The results of a nation-wide testing of high school seniors puts in doubts the efficacy of the Bush administration’s much touted No Child Left Behind Act. The National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2005, released on Feb. 22, showed that reading skills among seniors have remained stable since 2002.

However, the 2005 results were down from the first tests done in 1992.

Seniors are also tested in math skills, but the 2005 test differs from the previous exams so that no direct comparison is available.

No Child Left Behind was signed into law and went into effect in 2001. It is up for reauthorization this year.

The report also shows that African American and Hispanic students have continued to lag in educational attainment behind those of white students with no evidence of narrowing the gap. Only 16 percent of African Americans, 20 percent of Latinos, 36 per cent of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 26 percent of indigenous students reached the “proficiency” level.

At the same time the report, known popularly as the Nation’s Report Card, notes that high school students are taking more classes and more challenging courses.

The test, which is voluntary, was conducted with 21,000 students in 900 high schools, both public and private.

Massachusetts Education Commissioner David Driscoll, a member of the governing board which oversees the testing, said at a Washington, DC press conference that he thinks they “are sleeping through a crisis.” Driscoll called for educational reform.

Martina Cruz, a parent activist elected to the Lawrence, Mass. school board, said, “I agreed with the commissioner [Driscoll]. We are in a crisis and we need reform. But I think he and I have very different ideas about what we need.”

Cruz criticized Driscoll for “destroying bilingual education” in Massachusetts and instituting high stakes testing for students – the Massachusetts Comprehensive Testing System (MCAS) – without which students cannot graduate from high school. The student population of Lawrence, the only Hispanic-majority city in Massachusetts, is 85 percent Latino.

Cruz told the World, “The report card shows that No Child Left Behind and the MCAS are failures. We need real reform that takes into account the different needs of different students. We need reform that is more than words. And we need reform with real funding.”

Teachers unions and education advocates are gearing up for a fight over the reauthorization and content of No Child. Antonia Cortese, executive vice-president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “We must make necessary changes to the No Child Left Behind law, which has narrowed the education curriculum to the point that crucial subjects are being left behind.”

The teachers’ union leader also called for redoubling “our efforts to bridge the achievement gap, which persists for low-income students.”

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Democrats are debating a set of plans to stop the escalation in Iraq. Some in Congress are pushing to water down those measures — essentially letting the president off the hook.

Luckily, much of the Democratic caucus and leadership are pushing back. But we need to let them know that they have the public’s full support, and we need to do it in the next few days, when the plan is being decided.

Call your representative and senator now and ask her/him to do everything s/he can to make sure Congress acts to block the escalation and end the war. Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your rep.

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