NCLB battle gains statewide support
At the bottom of the article, we see how the Feds use the work of Harvard professors Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West.
Many Connecticut educators and educational organizations have supported Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s plans to sue the federal government over the No Child Left Behind Act, claiming that the act places an unnecessary burden on the state, but some say the lawsuit is counterproductive.
Blumenthal announced Tuesday that he will file a lawsuit charging that the No Child Left Be-hind Act essentially burdens Connecticut sch-ools with an unfunded mandate that will cost the state millions of dollars to pay for annual testing.
"The law specifically forbids requirements such as annual testing if they’re not fully funded by the federal government," Blumenthal told The Herald Press. "We already test every other year. Re-quiring annual tests is illogical, but requiring them without funding is illegal."
Connecticut educators are largely in agreement that Connecticut can already adequately gauge its school system through alternate year testing.
Connecticut currently requires mastery tests in grades four, six and eight, and requires a CAPT test in grade 10. No Child Left Behind would require annual testing in grades three to eight.
Connecticut Commissioner of Education Betty J. Sternberg issued a statement in support of Blumenthal, saying that the additional tests required by the act "would tell us little more than we already know about our students."
Southington Superintendent of Schools Harvey B. Polansky said he would be in support of any method that might improve the law.
"I think the goal of every student in this state is universal literacy," he said, "however the way No Child Left Behind calculates and designates schools is capricious and a detriment to school systems across America."
The U.S. Department of Education responded to Blumenthal’s action.
"It is very disappointing that officials in Connecticut are spending their time hiring lawyers while Connecticut’s students are suffering from one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation," according to the state’s own mastery test results.
Connecticut politicians who have said there are problems with No Child Left Behind have stopped short of supporting Blumenthal’s lawsuit.
U.S. Rep. Robert Simmons R-2, has been working with U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, to improve the law through legislation, which would be more constructive than a legal challenge, according to his Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell.
"We’re coming at it at a different angle (than Blumenthal)," Mitchell said. "We’re working with the Department of Education rather than suing it."
The day after Blumenthal made his announcement, Dodd announced that he reintroduced an initiative that would give states greater flexibility to comply with the act. The announcement also claimed the Bush Administration under funded No Child Left Behind by $12 billion dollars in the fiscal year of 2006.
Connecticut Republican Chairman William A. Hamzy called Blumenthal’s planned actions "false attacks," in a written statement.
"President (George W.) Bush has increased education funding more in four years than any other president, devoted more funding to education than any president since Lyndon Johnson, and has called for accountability and results in every American classroom," the statement says.
While Sternberg asked that Connecticut be allowed to satisfy testing requirements with alter-nate year testing, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings remains adamant that annual testing is a necessity.
In a March 20 opinion piece published in a state newspaper, Spellings blasted Sternberg’s re-quest, saying that alternate testing would not allow schools to catch problems and locate achieve-ment gaps.
Immediately after Blumenthal’s announcement on Tuesday, Spellings issued a release that de-lineated a "common sense approach" to No Child Left Behind that she said would give states more flexibility.
Part of the new approach would allow states to use modified tests for students with cognitive disabilities for up to two percent of the school population.
One hotly debated issue on No Child Left Behind is that it requires special education students to take the same tests that everyone else takes
Kevin Daly, president of the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association, said that about 12 per-cent of the Connecticut’s students are in special education, and about half of those have cognitive disabilities.
The law only allows for a small percentage of special education students to be given alternate tests; the rest must take the test assigned to their grade level. This was one item Sternberg re-quested to be waived by the Department of Education.
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said state educators are distressed at what they say is inflexibility on the part of the federal govern-ment.
"Not only is it a problem of how many tests are given," he said, "but the tests drive the curricu-lum."
The U.S. Department of Education maintains that such across the board testing allows educa-tors to find achievement gaps.
The department also refers to a study by Harvard professors Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West that claims No Child Left Behind represents costs that are no more than on fifth of a percent of total education expenses.
Sternberg, however, released a study this week that suggests the act will cost millions for each municipality in Connecticut to implement, in addition to the expected $8 million cost for the state to implement the law.
George Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (860) 225-4601, Ext. 225.
The Herald Press
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES