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U. S. Rep. Strickland Discusses Changes to School Act

Speaking to a small group at Jefferson Elementary School in Shadyside, Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland discussed his plan to make changes to the "No Child Left Behind Act," that could give schools more flexibility.
Strickland is touring the congressional district, talking about No Child Left Behind Act while also promoting a bill he has introduced in the House of Representatives, the Comprehensive Learning Assessment for Students and Schools, or CLASS Act.

Introducing Strickland was Shadyside Local School District Superintendent Jerry Narcisi, who also addressed the group. Narcisi said No Child Left Behind has its merits, but was also hurting public education.

Some of the areas Narcisi said he is concerned with include the lack of funding for public schools and the act's exemptions to charter and private schools.

Also concerning Narcisi is the standardized testing and holding schools accountable for those schools.

"We need to be accountable for providing an appropriate education, that's a given," Narcisi said. "We need to be accountable for the gifted education. We need to be accountable for all special eduction. We need to be accountable for the population we serve and each child we serve. No Child Left Behind doesn't need to tell us how to improve each child's level of education."

He later went on to say that students needed to be measured based on their ability groups, something he said Strickland's proposed legislation would correct along with many of those other issues.

Strickland then took the microphone, explaining some of the history of the No Child Left Behind Act, and why he voted for the legislation.

According to Strickland, he had his doubts about the legislation, but thought "there was more good in the legislation than harm."

He also said that he was led to believe there were resources promised for schools that never materialized.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools receive an adequate yearly progress report that include the levels of teacher training and attendance rates, along with standardized test scores. If a school fail to make the AYP, they are required to develop and implement a school improvement plan, Strickland said, and if they fail after three years, they are required to offer supplemental services and school choice. If the school fails in the fourth year, schools must take corrective action, which can include deferment of Title I funds and replacement of the district's superintendent.

But Strickland said some of the measures in the act are doing harm to school districts, prompting him to introduce CLASS Act, which he said is a correction of the flaws in No Child Left Behind, including the standardized testing.

Under the Strickland plan, schools would get credit for every child's improvement, even if they do not move into the "proficient category," and not just for exceeding a benchmark. Schools would also get credit for decreasing dropout rates.

Another big change proposed by the plan would limit transfer options to students in "subgroups," underserved by their school districts.

"Current law allows any student at a so called failing school to transfer to another school," Strickland said. "Often this means higher performing students leave, making it even harder for schools to met the AYP standards for the next year. This will limit the transfer option only to students in the failing subjects. This way, students who are not receiving the services they need have the option of transferring, but the school is not stripped of its good students."

The act also allows for special needs students to be measured at the grade level of their instruction, giving schools flexibility in administering tests.

"It is in my judgement abusive to take a child that has cognitive limitations, even if they aren't severe, and expect them to perform on these test as if they have no disability," Strickland said. "That insures their failure."

He also took aim at the No Child Left Behind for using the results of the first test given to students for assembling data.

"Under the CLASS Act, a student takes a particular test, more than once, the act will allow the schools to count the subsequent score in assembling their data," he said.

He went on to say having the option of re-testing could ease some of the worries students have prior to taking the test.

After the presentation, Strickland then took questions from the audience, including educators.

Jim Amato, a special education teacher in the Shadyside Local School District, said that he had "seen student fall apart," while taking standardized test.

"No Child Left Behind has some very good points to it," Amato said. "However, there are a lot of points to it that are a travesty. And it's not going to show any progress because it is just way beyond some of the students.

Also speaking was Buckeye Local Superintendent Joe Pielech, who said Strickland's plan should have originally been included in No Child Left Behind.

Strickland also encouraged those in attendance to contact other members of congress from Ohio to support then legislation, as well as Sens. Michael DeWine and George Voinovich. The act currently does not have a co-signer in the House of Representative or a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

— Michael Schuler
Times Leader


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