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NCLB Outrages

State Educationists React to NCLB

Ohanian Comment: Here's how state level educationists try to deal with No Child Left Behind:

  • Put test questions on fast food menus.

  • Eliminate performance standards

  • Insisting resistance is futile.

  • Call it "an opportunity."

  • Define NCLB as the instrument for forcing teachers "to identify and assist students who are having trouble."

  • Louisiana put sample test questions on tray liners in fast food restaurants and on book covers as part of a public relations campaign to help students pass newly mandated federal tests.

    Kentucky eliminated performance standards not required by the federal government. Nebraska, like many states, was forced to focus on testing.

    Across the nation, states are struggling to meet the challenges of the federal No Child Left Behind Act which increases mandated accountability and punishes low-performing schools.

    During a forum Monday, educators said it is unrealistic for the federal government to expect schools to meet a requirement for 100 percent proficiency on test scores in 11 years.

    "It is good to set goals. It's good to have dreams. But I think we have to have some reality," said Doug Christensen, Nebraska's education commissioner. "If we aren't getting school improvement out of this, what's the point?"

    Christensen said standing up to the federal government is futile because it controls funding. He said states have to compromise with the Department of Education.

    The act, a centerpiece of President Bush's domestic agenda, requires schools to improve through expanded testing, tougher standards for teachers and yearly monitoring of student progress. It sets sanctions for schools that don't improve.

    The goal is to get every child proficient in math and reading by 2013-14. Every core class must have a "highly qualified" teacher by 2005-06 and provide more testing, including annual math and reading tests in grades 3-8.

    Schools that fail to improve must offer students supplemental tutoring and the chance to transfer to a higher-achieving school nearby. After six years, struggling schools can be closed and reopened with new staffs.

    The National Education Association, which represents 2.7 million teachers and other school workers, plans to sue the federal government for allegedly breaking a promise to keep states from bearing any of the costs of the massive education changes they have been ordered to make.

    Cecil Picard, Louisiana's superintendent of education, told educators at the National Forum for the Education Commission on the States that the law is an opportunity to engage parents, teachers and students in a discussion about education.

    Louisiana spent an additional $800 million on education reform. Picard said his state also made sure schools were not punished for temporary problems and were graded on a curve. "Some years, you just get a bad crop of kids," he said.

    Suellen Reed, superintendent for the Indiana Department of Education, said the new law has forced teachers to identify and assist students who are having trouble.

    "Right now, testing is the best way we have," she said.

    — Steven K. Paulson
    States struggling to meet federal school requirements
    San Francisco Chronicle
    July 14, 2003


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