WASHINGTON – A report released today details the sharp growth in practices that push K-12 students out of schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, with especially alarming effects on students of color and youth with disabilities. Federal Policy, ESEA Reauthorization, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, the result of a year-long collaboration of research, education, civil rights, and juvenile justice organizations, also offers policy solutions for ways that federal law can reduce the pushout and over-criminalization of students. Nearly 150 organizations have endorsed the paper. “As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), it is essential to examine how No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has itself contributed to the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” states the report. “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” The report’s detailed analysis shows that NCLB worsened the learning environment and made schools less effective. It led to decreased graduation rates, slower rates of academic improvement and of closing racial achievement gaps, as well as an increased burden on the justice system and wasted tax dollars. The paper calls for an improved federal role in education, in which the public will be given a more accurate and meaningful assessment of schools’ strengths and weaknesses, schools will provided more tools for improving their performance, and students’ educational opportunities will be better protected. “By focusing accountability almost exclusively on test scores and attaching high stakes to them, NCLB has given schools a perverse incentive to allow or even encourage students to leave,” explained George Wood, Executive Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy. “NCLB has led to the dramatic narrowing and weakening of curriculum,” added Monty Neill, Executive Director of FairTest. “Because so much of the school day is focused on test preparation instead of well-rounded instruction, more students become alienated, making the jobs of teachers even harder.” The report also points out that NCLB directly encourages the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies and the referral of students to law enforcement for disciplinary infractions. The result has been the over-criminalization of students across the country. These policies have contributed to record-high suspension and expulsion rates, sharp rises in the use of school-based arrests and referral of students to law enforcement, and declining graduation rates. “The effects have been particularly severe for students of color and students with disabilities,” said Len Rieser, Executive Director of Education Law Center – PA. “Racial disparities in school discipline have actually gotten worse. Our education system is becoming less equitable than it was only ten years ago.” “Moreover, NCLB has not done nearly enough to allow young people who are not in school to re-enter the education system. Many are left without a place to turn as they attempt to realize their goals,” said Robert Schwartz, Executive Director of Juvenile Law Center. According to Jim Freeman, Director of the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Programat Advancement Project, “The increased reliance on these two ‘get-tough’ strategies – high-stakes testing and zero tolerance – is alarming. There is clear evidence that they have failed to achieve their intended results. Instead, they cause significant harm, especially to students of color and low-income communities. They combine to create unhealthy and unproductive school environments that fuel the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Damon Hewitt, Director of the Education Practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund pointed out the historical significance of these developments. “The original Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 was a civil rights statute at its core, intended to reduce inequitable educational opportunities experienced by poor children and children of color. The current version of that law – NCLB – actually contributes to those inequities.But with common-sense amendments, a revised ESEA can recapture its original purpose.” The report describes reauthorization of the ESEA as an important opportunity to begin dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and makes a number of recommendations to Congress: ·- Create a stronger, more effective school and student assessment and accountability system capable of recognizing multiple forms of success and offering useful information for school improvement. ·- Provide funding and incentives aimed at improving school climate, reducing the use of exclusionary discipline, and limiting the flow of students from schools to the juvenile and criminal justice systems. · - Facilitate the re-enrollment, re-entry, and proper education of students returning to school from expulsion and juvenile justice system placements.