Ohio Congressman Offers Education Bill
It was a Friday night in Athens, but instead of being on Court Street college students, area parents, teachers and high school students packed into the Federal Hocking High School library to hear Congressman Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, talk about the No Child Left Behind Act.
Strickland came to the high school to talk about the flaws of No Child Left Behind and to promote a piece of legislation -the Comprehensive Learning Assessment for Students and Schools (CLASS) act -he designed to fix the problems in No Child Left Behind.
Passed in 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act requires states to develop and use a system of tests for assessing students. These tests must be taken by almost all students regardless of ability level, with only 1 percent of students allowed to receive an alternative form of testing.
This prevents school districts from having flexibility in the way they teach their students, Strickland said.
"What we should be doing, in my judgment, is assessing students' talents and allowing plans geared around talents," he said.
Stickland said he hesitantly signed the No Child Left Behind Act, but later, a powerful letter from a teacher made him aware of the problems with the act.
Dawn Spurr was a fourth grade English teacher when she wrote an e-mail to Strickland at 3 a.m. during what she said was a sleepless night. That day Spurr had watched her brightest student break down into tears while taking a state proficiency test. The girl looked up at Spurr and said she just couldn't think about the test anymore. Throughout the rest of the day the student apologized to Spurr for letting her down and failing the test.
"Two to three days afterwards he called me and said, 'I needed to hear this,'" she said.
With the help of experts from the National Education Association and Spurr, Stickland began drafting legislation to fix No Child Left Behind.
The CLASS Act seeks to change -not eliminate -No Child Left Behind, including allowing schools to receive credit for having students in Advanced Placement courses and having low dropout rates. This will give schools an incentive to pay attention to both gifted students and high-risk students who could fall through the cracks of No Child Left Behind, Strickland said.
"This whole thing keeps coming down to a one-size-fits-all test that bothers me greatly," said David Gutsafson, the Logan-Hocking School District school psychologist, "We are not teaching all kids to the level of their abilities."
The CLASS Act also changes the No Child Left Behind Act by only allowing students in failing groups to transfer schools, instead of allowing any student from a school rated as failing to transfer.
Most importantly, to teachers at the meeting, the CLASS Act would widen the number of students with special needs or disabilities allowed to use alternative testing.
Doug Brooks, an intervention specialist at Federal Hocking Local School District, works with some students whose IQs range from 80 to 83.
"They're great people, they are fun to be around, they have great cognitive abilities in some things, but there's no way they can pass that test," he said.
The chances of this act passing are slim, Strickland said. At the meeting, State Rep. Jennifer Garrison requested that the state follow Utah's lead and opt out of No Child Left Behind.
That would mean a sacrifice for the state -more than $3 million in federal funding -but in the end it would be worth it to be able to show the federal government that No Child Left Behind needs to be changed, Garrison said. Strickland hopes this bill and the five or six others in Congress against No Child Left Behind will do the same thing.
"When I hear the president say every child can learn, it's as though it's a revelation," Stickland said. "But not every child can learn at the same rate."
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