AHA Council: When the AHA should take a stand and its views on No Child Left Behind

Historians in the News

In addition to the resolutions adopted at the annual business meeting, the governing Council of the American Historical Association adopted a number of other policy and professional resolutions at its meeting this past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. The Council adopted new policy guidelines on when the AHA should take a public position, endorsed the idea of including history in the No Child Left Behind Act, and rejected some of the underlying assumptions about history in Florida’s A++ Plan for Education .

The new ”Guiding Principles on Taking a Public Stance“ may seem the most timely, given the discussions at the annual business meeting, but the AHA Professional Divsion drafted them over the past twelve months. These new principles lay out five areas requiring “public interventions” to protect the “rights and careers” of historians, including occasions where, public or private authorities “threaten the preservation of or free access to historical sources;” “censor the writing, exhibition, or teaching of history;” “limit or forbid freedom of movement to historians;” or “compromise the mission of historical assets.” According to Anthony Grafton (Princeton University), this “is an effort to state the central principles that guide, and should guide, the AHA in deciding when to take action in the public sphere.”

In keeping with these principles, the Council adopted two new statements on public policy related to history teaching in the schools. The first, on Adding History to No Child Left Behind Act, places the Association on record as supporting “the addition of history (both U.S. and world history) to the areas of assessment and accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act and calls for systematic efforts, including professional development of in-service teachers, to improve the quality of history teaching at elementary and secondary levels.” While many in the history community view No Child Left Behind with ambivalence, since high stakes testing undermines many of the best practices of history teaching, the AHA Teaching Division concluded that, “if history is to be a high-priority subject in the public-school curriculum, then it must be assessed and evaluated.”...
Read entire article at Robert Townsend at the AHA blog

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Kevin R Kosar - 1/17/2007

The AHA statement reads, "The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) ... includes provisions in five main areas. It requires that schools make adequate yearly progress (AYP); that teachers in all subjects become “highly qualified”; that student progress be measured by assessing reading, math, and eventually science; that parents be involved in schools; that “scientifically-based research” be the basis of classroom strategies; and expansion of parental choice in schools that students attend. Funding, however, is basically left to the states."

This final sentence is factually inaccurate. Funding is not "basically left to the states."

Have a look at NCLB's authorization of funding [sec. 1002 at http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html] and recent appropriation laws [http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html] and you'll see that federal funding for schooling has soared in recent years. One may argue that the funding should be higher; one can't, though, declare that NCLB leaves funding of its activities to the states.


Kevin R. Kosar
Author, Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005)