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Murray Calls for Fixing Broken No Child Left Behind Law, Ensuring All Students Have Quality Education

Jan 21 2015

Murray: “Fixing No Child Left Behind should not be a partisan issue. It should be one we work on hand in hand, not as Democrats or Republicans – but as Americans. This is an issue that isn’t about politics – it’s about what’s best for kids.”

Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a committee hearing on Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability. In her opening statement, Murray highlighted the critical role the federal government plays in ensuring no child falls through the cracks and in establishing accountability for schools and districts, and also noted the importance of reducing redundant and low-quality tests.  Murray called for Democrats and Republicans to work together on fixing No Child Left Behind so that all students receive a quality education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Serving on this committee, I’m looking forward to making college more affordable and reducing the overwhelming burden of student loans, expanding access to early learning, and making sure the voices of students and parents are heard in the policy-making process. And of course, in the coming weeks and months, I will be especially focused on working to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law.”

“…the federal government has an important – and productive – role to play in making sure assessments and accountability work for kids. Assessments help parents and communities hold schools accountable. If a school is failing students year after year, parents and communities deserve to have that information and be assured the school will get the resources it needs to improve. When it comes to our nation’s largest federal investment in K through 12 education, it would be irresponsible to spend billions in federal taxpayer dollars without knowing if the law is making a difference in students’ lives.  Many of my colleagues demand evidence and accountability in other federal programs – and I hope they would agree we need that in education too.”

“We can and should encourage states and districts to reduce redundant and low-quality tests. And because we have a national interest in making sure all students get an excellent education, we need federal oversight to make sure our system is working for every child. That means offering the resources – for improving professional development and for expanding access to high-quality learning opportunities – to help struggling schools, so we don’t consign some kids to sub-par education. While we carefully consider changes to assessments and accountability to give states and districts the flexibility they need, we can’t forget our obligations to the kids who too often fall through the cracks.”

“I know the Members on my side are anxious to begin this work and continue the long tradition of this Committee tackling tough problems in a bipartisan fashion. Fixing No Child Left Behind should not be a partisan issue.  It should be one we work on hand in hand, not as Democrats or Republicans – but as Americans.  This is an issue that isn’t about politics – it’s about what’s best for kids.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander, for holding this hearing today. And I want to especially thank our witnesses for taking the time to be here.

“This is my first hearing as the Ranking Member for the HELP Committee. So I want to begin by acknowledging Senator Tom Harkin and commend his many years of service on this committee that truly touches every American’s life.  He was a tireless advocate for those without a voice – and he will be missed in this body.

“I also want to acknowledge and congratulate the Committee’s new chairman, Senator Alexander, and say that I look forward to working with you.

“As Chairman Alexander and I adjust to our new roles, I think we have one belief we have mentioned every time we talk: we think working together, this Committee can really get some exciting work done over the next couple years and talking to our colleagues of the dais I am excited about what we can all do together in the weeks and months ahead.

“And I’m ready to get to work – especially on an issue as important as the one that is the topic of this hearing — education.

“In fact, this issue is why I got into politics in the first place. Throughout my career, as a preschool teacher, to the school board, to the Washington State Senate, to the United States Senate, I have been committed to making sure every kid has someone fighting for them and their future.

“Serving on this committee, I’m looking forward to making college more affordable and reducing the overwhelming burden of student loans, expanding access to early learning, and making sure the voices of students and parents are heard in the policy-making process.

“And of course, in the coming weeks and months, I will be especially focused on working to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law. And that’s what we’ll be discussing today.

“Nearly everyone agrees we need to fix No Child Left Behind. The law set unrealistic goals for schools across the country, and then failed to give them the resources they needed to succeed.

“But we can’t turn our back on measuring students’ progress or simply let schools and states off the hook for failing to provide a quality education to all students. Especially because we’ve seen some successes since 2001, when Congress enacted No Child Left Behind.

“Our graduation rate has increased by 10 points. Among students with disabilities, regular-diploma graduation rates have increased by more than 12 percent. And drop-out rates have decreased by more than 17 percent. And achievement gaps have declined among African American and Latino students.

“So, the federal government has an important – and productive – role to play in making sure assessments and accountability work for kids.

“Assessments help parents and communities hold schools accountable. If a school is failing students year after year, parents and communities deserve to have that information and be assured the school will get the resources it needs to improve.

“When it comes to our nation’s largest federal investment in K through 12 education, it would be irresponsible to spend billions in federal taxpayer dollars without knowing if the law is making a difference in students’ lives.

“Many of my colleagues demand evidence and accountability in other federal programs – and I hope they would agree we need that in education too.

“For these reasons, I would be very concerned about any attempt to eliminate annual, statewide assessments.

“Just as I would be very concerned about any attempt to roll back accountability that ensures we’re delivering on our promise of a quality public education for all.

“Now, 13 years after Congress passed this law, we should use the research, best practices, and lessons we’ve learned to fix No Child Left Behind.

“I have heard from so many parents and teachers, as well as community members, in Washington state about the ways the current system doesn’t work when it comes to testing.

“We can and should encourage states and districts to reduce redundant and low-quality tests. And because we have a national interest in making sure all students get an excellent education, we need federal oversight to make sure our system is working for every child.

“That means offering the resources – for improving professional development and for expanding access to high-quality learning opportunities – to help struggling schools, so we don’t consign some kids to sub-par education.

“While we carefully consider changes to assessments and accountability to give states and districts the flexibility they need, we can’t forget our obligations to the kids who too often fall through the cracks.

“I’ve laid out my priorities for fixing this broken law. And I know Chairman Alexander has put out his priorities and his discussion draft.

“So I hope we can begin conversations about a truly bipartisan approach in the HELP Committee to fixing this broken law.

“I know the Members on my side are anxious to begin this work and continue the long tradition of this Committee tackling tough problems in a bipartisan fashion.

“Fixing No Child Left Behind should not be a partisan issue.  It should be one we work on hand in hand, not as Democrats or Republicans – but as Americans.  This is an issue that isn’t about politics – it’s about what’s best for kids.

“In our country, we believe every student should have access to a quality public education, regardless of where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

“That vision is a big part of what we mean when we talk about America—what makes our country so great.

“Other countries around the world are investing in education. They are working every day to get it right for their students.  China, India, and others – they think they can beat us in the classroom – but we know better.

“We know we can win this. And we know we have to.

“For students back in my home state of Washington – for our economic future – and for our shared vision of the American dream.

“So, we can’t afford to turn back the clock on the promise of quality education for all. We can’t be the generation that drops the ball on this noble goal.  And I’m going to continue to fight to bring quality education to all students.

“Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses today.”