Clinton, De Klerk address school board members
at 67th annual NSBA conference
The real buzz: No Child Left Behind and its impact
As many as 14,000 school board members attended the 67th annual
National School Board conference this past weekend at San Francisco's
April 16, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (FCJ) - Two former presidents, Bill Clinton
and F.W. de Klerk, headlined as keynote speakers at the National
School Boards Association's 67th annual conference held at San
Francisco's Moscone Convention Center this past weekend.
President Bill Clinton focused his speech on our nation's failing
health care system and the growing childhood
obesity epidemic, while former South African president F.W.
de Klerk explored the theme of change and the necessity for educators
to adapt curriculum to new emerging technologies in a rapidly
Outside the convention, a group of protestors demanded the elimination
of the controversial No
Child Left Behind act. The clamor outside echoed the subtext
inside - public education has become a highly politicized domain.
Clinton diverted his speech to the nation's growing health care
crisis saying, half-jokingly, "If I were dictator, I would
make some changes to that No Child Left Behind."
President Bill Clinton
"You do need some benchmarks in performance, but not with
testing every year," Clinton added.
Under NCLB, annual standardized testing is mandated for students
in grades 3-12.
"Maybe three tests total, in all the years of schooling"
would be sufficient, Clinton said.
Calling universal health care a "moral imperative,"
Clinton stressed prevention and treatment. He provided sobering
statistics about the health status of America's youth, including
the obesity rate (the highest in the world), and the subsequent
rise in Type-2
Diabetes (also known as Adult Onset Diabetes) in children
as young as 9.
"These kids spend more time in school than any place else,
so we have to get to them there," Clinton urged.
Clinton lauded the efforts of schools whose efforts to combat
childhood obesity include re-emphasizing recess as a time to be
active and making a school-wide commitment to well-balanced lunches.
He then plugged Pepsico, thanking the corporation for its dedication
to improving food in schools with healthier menu choices, and
the elimination of soda and cookies from cafeteria vending machines.
Whereas Clinton emphasized the the U.S. health care crisis, former
South Africa head of state, F.W. de Klerk, mused about the extraordinary
societal transformation he observed, and supported, during and
after his tenure as the last president of South Africa's apartheid
Despite a world in constant flux, there is a real need to define
a vision for education "based on values and principles which
can withstand the ages," de Klerk stated.
Former South Africa President F.W.
Using South Africa's transformation from apartheid to a multi-racial
democracy as an example, de Klerk outlined his country's acceptance
of change through 'change management' urging educators to "articulate
a clear and achievable vision", and to "take the calculated
risks associated with that leap."
Despite the heavy rain outside protestors, including teachers,
parents, and school board commissioners, picketed in protest of
the NCLB act, due for reauthorization by congress later this spring.
The NCLB Act was approved during President Bush's first term
and is the linchpin of his education agenda.
"We are against the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind",
said Oakland 5th grade teacher Mary Loeser, "It is an effort
to privatize education and remove the 'public' from public schools."
Forty-two of Oakland's ninety-eight schools have closed and many
are reopening as charter schools. California allows for-profit
corporations to run charter schools.
Schools in Oakland have closed because of declining enrollment,
which Loeser believes is tied to a narrow curriculum, tailored
to accommodate the NCLB test demands.
Joe Lucido, a teacher and parent in Fresno, California, is a
founding member of the Coalition to Eliminate No Child Left Behind.
The coalition is primarily opposed to the testing component of
"Standardized testing causes fear and pain and damages learning
in the classroom", Lucido stressed. "Standardized tests
eliminate student thinking, and limits their ability to reason
and think critically."
Under NCLB schools must show progress on standardized tests,
or face sanctions.
San Francisco School Board member Eric Mar said of the NCLB act:
"While we want to see a reauthorization of federal laws like
ESEA that ensure that
Title I and other funding and support is provided to low income
and working class schools and communities, we are united in opposition
to NCLB for its harmful impact on our schools.
Eric Mar with daughter Jade
Photo courtesy ericmar.com
"NCLB was developed and has been supported by conservative
and big business interests that are promoting privatization and
business practices on schools and a high-stakes testing-fundamentalism.
We want adequacy in funding, especially for urban districts and
schools with low income children. The testing mania is also forcing
teachers to teach to the test instead of helping students deepen
their critical thinking and creative abilities," Mar stated.
Anne Bryant, president of the National School Boards Association,
told Fog City that the NSBA does support the reauthorization of
the NCLB Act but urges a review and revisions.
The NSBA is working with Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to secure co-sponsors
for his bill, H.R. 648, the No
Child Left Behind Improvements Act of 2007.
The bill offers improvements that address many of the unintended
consequences of the federal legislation that have resulted in
unfair assessment testing practices.
The Young bill would allow for more flexibility in assessing
students, in particular students with disabilities and English
According to Bryant, the Young bill has "almost all 42 of
our recommendations for change" including revisions to assessment
NSBA National Director Anne Bryant
Luke Thomas contributed to this report.