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NCLB Outrages

Southern education group says state high school standards are vague

Ohanian Comment: Vague, indeed. At what hour, on what day should you have learned how to use a semi-colon? Take a look at One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards.

NOTE: The Southern Regional Education Board is governed by a Board that consists of the governor of each member state and four people that he or she appoints, including at least one state legislator and at least one educator. The Board meets each year at the SREB Annual Meeting. SREB is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization. It is supported by appropriations from its member states and by funds from private companies, foundations, and state and federal agencies.

It uses terms like Academic Common Market.

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas state standards for high schools are unclear, lowering the state's readiness to meet with federal "No Child Left Behind" guidelines, according to a new Southern Regional Education Board report.

Senate Education Committee chairman Jim Argue, D-Little Rock, said Thursday he has asked for a written explanation from the board, a non-profit reform institute for the Southern region. Argue said he wants a more detailed explanation of the board's reasoning on that issue. He's not received that response yet, he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The report, "Focusing on Student Performance Through Accountability," gave Arkansas high marks on accountability standards except for "standards that are clear, specific and grounded in content" for high school English and for high school math. The report also said Arkansas has made good progress in bringing up benchmark test scores. However, Arkansas still ranks low on overall test scores compared to other states, the report said.

The report graded 16 states on their progress toward the goals of "No Child Left Behind" for 2014. All states showed improvement, but none are improving enough to meet the 2014 deadline, the report concluded.

Arkansas showed the largest increase in reading improvement in the last school year and tied for first with Maryland for the percentage improvement in math. However, Arkansas started from a last-place position in both categories and still ranks near the bottom, according to the report. However, the report also said that the South, as a region, has been more successful than other regions in efforts to improve education and meet "No Child Left Behind" guidelines, particularly in accountability requirements.

High school graduation rates remained stagnant in all the states covered by the report.

One potential problem in complying with "No Child Left Behind," or NCLB, is that so-called Title 1 schools get all the attention. Title 1 schools have a high proportion of low-income students, qualifying them for extra federal money. If those schools fail to meet NCLB standards, they could lose federal funding. The result has been that states have put a higher priority on Title 1 schools that are failing to progress toward state school standards than other schools that are struggling just as much or more, but are not facing a risk of losing federal funding.

"Unless states choose to identify non-Title 1 schools as needing improvement, apply meaningful sanctions to those that do not meet state standards for two or more consecutive years, and provide financial assistance to help them improve, these schools are virtually exempt from the consequences of 'No Child Left Behind,'" the report said.

"The result [is] that students in two equally low-performing schools - one that receives Title 1 funding and one that does not - will be treated differently in these states," the report said.

— Doug Thompson
Arkansas News Bureau


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