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Local discontent with 'No Child Left Behind' grows

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For instance, Connecticut estimates it will cost the state $41.6 million more to implement NCLB than the federal government is providing. Local communities will bear additional costs, too.

The White House and the DOE dispute that. They point to two studies done by the Government Accountability Office in New Jersey and Massachusetts that found those states had enough federal resources to implement the law. They also note that since NCLB was passed, federal education spending has increased more than 30 percent.

"It is unfortunate that some appear to think that reform is more trouble than it's worth," says DOE spokeswoman Samara Yudof. "No Child Left Behind is working: Evidence from both the Nation's Report Card and the states' own data prove it."

Although test scores are going up, they were before NCLB was passed, as well. That's because of state education reforms and testing protocols put into place over the past 25 years. Indeed, there's been no research to determine which reforms get credit for the increasing scores. But many teachers and local legislators credit the earlier state improvements, and they're concerned that NCLB mandates are actually undermining their students' long-term success.

They argue that the high-stakes nature of NCLB's test encourages "teaching to the test" and actually undermines learning and critical-thinking skills. At the same time, they contend, NCLB mandates drain resources from key enrichment programs.

"The consequences especially for minority students are more and more tragic, and you see it in the data," says Sylvia Bruni, assistant superintendent of the Laredo, Texas, Independent School District. "We have enormous dropout rates, in my community as many 30 percent of all students.... Statewide there's a marked decline in the number of students who are prepared for higher education."

Ms. Bruni says that one of the biggest indications of NCLB's failure comes from the business community, which has found that students are "graduating as poor communicators, really weak critical thinkers, weak problem solvers."

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