The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hosted its annual States and Nation Policy Summit on December 7-10, 2005 in Washington, D.C. More than 500 state legislators, business leaders, and public policy experts who share a commitment to common sense and conservative policies convened at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel for three days of intensive discussions on the critical issues facing the states and nation.
ALEC’s Education-Federal Affairs Subcommittee and its Education Task Force unanimously approved the Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind. The ALEC National Board subsequently approved the resolution to become official policy.
The resolution confirmed ALEC members’ commitment to creating a public education system fundamentally focused on a strong system of accountability and transparency and to equipping parents with information necessary to make effective decisions regarding their children’s education.
“At its core, No Child Left Behind demands that our public school system educate each child while enforcing high accountability standards for students and educators alike,” said Colorado state Sen. Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), ALEC’s Education-Federal Affairs Subcommittee chairwoman. “If states choose to accept federal education dollars, we should likewise be willing to prove to taxpayers that the achievement gap is narrowing and that each child is receiving a solid education.”
While ALEC’s resolution recognizes parents are the primary educators of their children, it also acknowledges that states maintain a key responsibility for public education. The resolution further states the federal government is a partner in ensuring each child is given equal opportunity to become a successful, productive citizen of the United States.
“Our nation’s future economic strength and security depend on raising education standards and achievement, and we cannot turn our backs on children in struggling schools who need enhanced educational opportunities immediately,” said Missouri state Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), who is ALEC Education Task Force chairwoman and a National Board member. “The [Bush] administration and Congress deserve our appreciation for enacting No Child Left Behind and setting high standards while giving states the flexibility to determine proficiency levels.”
Tracking Academic Growth
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced in November a pilot program for 10 states to develop growth-model programs for student assessments as they relate to NCLB. In recognition of that announcement, ALEC approved the Longitudinal Student Growth Act at its December Policy Summit. The model bill would require a state’s department of education to provide each school district, including charter schools, with an academic growth information report for each student. The measure also requires the school district to adopt a policy for using the information in the report and relaying it to students and their parents.
Championed by Colorado state Rep. Keith King (R-Colorado Springs), this model legislation aims to measure student longitudinal growth toward state standards, with the goal that all students be at least proficient in reading and math by the tenth grade.
King pointed out enacting the legislation will enable schools to rate student progress as a key element when measuring educational effectiveness. Tracking student records longitudinally would require states to implement a data-management system, complete with a state data warehouse, so growth relationships can be identified across grade levels.
Alternate Teacher Certification
ALEC’s Education Task Force also adopted the Alternate Certification Act, which permits people with comprehensive alternative certification to enter the teaching profession without a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. ALEC believes states should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare people with subject-area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and comprehensive mentoring program.
Alternate certification programs increase the pool of highly qualified teaching candidates for school districts and potentially reduce the number of out-of-field teachers by providing a larger number of prospective teachers in the most needed subject areas.
Such programs include the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), which offers potential educators the opportunity to enter the teaching workforce without following the traditional education-college experience. Through its Passport to Teaching certification, ABCTE offers a cost-effective program that awards teaching credentials based on subject area mastery and professional teaching knowledge as evaluated by rigorous assessments. The teaching credential is nationally recognized and portable from state to state.
Lori Drummer ([email protected]) is director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Education Task Force.
For more information …
The ALEC resolution and model legislation described in this article is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and search for documents #18516 (Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind); #18518 (Longitudinal Student Growth Act); and #18517 (Alternate Certification Act).
More information on the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) is available at its Web site, http://www.abcte.org.