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Education-reform accountability seen lacking

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While they generally supports the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, Americans see gaps in crucial accountability components and a disregard for the realities in public education systems, a new study says.

The act requires accountability for schools’ performance, but certain realities, including lack of resources and capacity constraints, are impeding progress, says a report by the Public Education Network.

The group, made up of 82 local education funds from across the U.S., talked with 2,000 people and surveyed another 20,000 about their views on the act between 2004 and 2007.

No Child Left Behind “must have a more compelling vision, strong policies to support it, and greater public engagement,” says Wendy D.Puriefoy, president and CEO of the network.  “Its fatal flaw could be that it has left crucial realities behind.”

Before it is reauthorized, the network says, the act should continue to focus on highly qualified teachers, but also must provide the resources they need to be more effective.

Accountability requirements should be student-focused and provide rewards for continuous improvement, the study says.

While the act pays “lip service” to parental involvement in education, the study says, parents and other community members are not included in reform efforts.

So the study recommends strengthening parental involvement provisions and providing more opportunities for community participation.

The act also should expand state and local capacity for providing support to students and schools, particularly those that are deemed “low performing,” the study says.

Finally, it says, the federal government should provide full funding for all provisions of the act if it is reauthorized.

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