Georgia Schools Run Up Against NCLB Oppressive Requirements
Ohanian Comment: Some call NCLB bewildering; others would say mean-spirited/oppressive/sadistic. The examples of school "failures" below show the stupidity of failing an entire school for failure to achieve goals in one category. (Most schools have at least 16 categories in which they must meet compliance. Eight groups = 16 categories because children are tested in both reading and math.) If you want labels, then why not label that one category and help the school figure out a plan for those children?
Nearly half of the public schools in Gwinnett County were snagged this month by an often-bewildering federal law that requires schools to track the performance of children who traditionally have stumbled on standardized tests.
This is the first time schools have had to do that. And, as many principals in Gwinnett discovered, the difference between success and failure could come down to a few student absences on testing day, or a single category of students who did not perform as expected.
Centerville Elementary School was identified by the state Department of Education as poor-performing because too many of its African-American students missed the math portion of the state curriculum exam.
Rockbridge Elementary School had below-expectation performance by disabled students in fourth grade.
The initial phase of the No Child Left Behind Act started last year, with four county schools being compelled to provide parents with the option of transferring their child to a better-performing school.
This year, 14 elementary and middle schools in Gwinnett have to offer the transfers.
An additional 27 schools are on the cusp. If they don't improve this year, they face future sanctions that could include a transfer option for parents.
For some parents, transferring to another school isn't an option.
The Oakland Center in Lawrenceville, a small, specialized school for the most severely disabled students, made the list because too few of its students participated in the required testing.
Although special education children can take alternative assessments rather than standardized exams, Georgia limits this option to 1 percent of students.
At Oakland, no child is able to take a standardized exam, so the school made the list, said principal Carol Quinn.
She was nonplussed about the designation. The parents of Oakland Center students understand the mission, she said, and know their children are learning life skills.
The school has taught children to walk, to feed themselves and to communicate using computers if they cannot speak.
One of her students, 6-year-old Evan Miller, known by his nickname "Boo," learned to feed himself with a spoon last school year. He cannot speak beyond a few words. But he communicated his wish to listen to a recorded song by hitting a small button-activated device that contained specific words.
A transfer is not an option most Oakland parents want, Quinn said. "They would pitch a fit if you tried to move them," she said.
One of the features of the federal initiative is a kind of all-or-nothing structure.
Successful schools need to move all types of students forward, not just the top performers whose strong test scores could hide those of the underachievers, said Georgia school Superintendent Kathy Cox in comments to school superintendents last week.
The federal law requires schools to test 95 percent of students in key grades. That participation also is required of groups of students, based on ethnicity, race, economic status and other factors, as long as a school has at least 40 students who fit into that category in the tested grade.
"It is a high standard, but it is an intrinsic part of everything that this law aims to achieve," Cox said in a statement released last week. "We must raise academic expectations for all of our students --- not just our highest-performing ones."
In Gwinnett, as elsewhere in Georgia, most of the schools were tripped up because they failed to test enough students in specific groups, including children who have limited English proficiency or who are disabled.
Because Gwinnett schools are large and diverse, most schools were required to track several student groups.
Duluth High School, for example, had to track student performance in eight different groups.
All of the county's high schools failed to meet expectations, and if they don't improve, they could be forced to offer transfers to students next year.
But do parents really want to transfer their children from Parkview and Brookwood high schools, among the top-ranked high schools in Georgia?
Both failed to test enough students on the Georgia High School Graduation Test.
All of this has made skeptics of some parents, such as Steven Croft, whose daughter graduated from Parkview High School in June. The law may be well-intentioned, he said, but its requirements are unrealistic.
"The government is going insane with this bureaucratic way of responding to what I consider massive failures in society," he said.
SCHOOLS ON THE LIST
Forty-one Gwinnett County schools have failed to make sufficient progress on standardized tests, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Many schools this year stumbled on the requirement to test 95 percent of students in key grades and in categories such as students with disabilities or those with limited English proficiency. Some schools made adequate progress last year but have to do so again this year before they can stop providing transfers to students.
> Beaver Ridge: insufficient testing of Hispanic students. *
> Benefield: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Bethesda: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Centerville: insufficient testing of black students in math.
> Lawrenceville: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Lilburn: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Magill: insufficient testing of black students in math.
> McKendree: insufficient testing of disabled students.
> Meadowcreek: insufficient testing of limited-English speaking students; too few limited-English speaking students passed reading; not enough attendance by white students.
> Minor: insufficient testing of limited-English-speaking students in reading; too few disabled students passed reading.
> Nesbit: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Norcross: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Peachtree: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Rockbridge: too few disabled students passed reading; too few passed math.
> Simonton: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Stripling: made progress but still has to offer transfers.
> Creekland: too few disabled students passed math.
> Duluth: too few limited-English speaking students passed reading.
> Five Forks: too few disabled students passed reading; too few passed math.
> Lanier: insufficient testing of limited-English-speaking students; inadequate attendance by limited-English-speaking students.
> Lilburn: insufficient testing of limited-English-speaking students; too few disabled students passed reading; too few passed math; insufficient attendance by all students.
> Pinckneyville: too few disabled students passed math; too few limited-English-speaking students passed math.
> Richards: too few disabled students passed math; too few limited-English-speaking students passed math.
> Summerour: too few disabled students passed reading; too few passed math; too few limited-English-speaking students passed reading; too few passed math. Inadequate attendance by three student groups.
> Sweetwater: too few disabled students passed English; too few passed math; too few limited-English-speaking students passed math.
> Trickum: too few limited-English-speaking students passed English.
> Berkmar: insufficient testing of seven student groups.
> Brookwood: insufficient testing of three student groups.
> Central Gwinnett: insufficient testing of eight student groups.
> Collins Hill: insufficient testing of six student groups.
> Dacula: insufficient testing of five student groups.
> Duluth: insufficient testing of eight student groups.
> Grayson: insufficient testing of black students.
> Meadowcreek: insuficient testing of six student groups.
> Norcross: insufficient testing of six student groups.
> North Gwinnett: insufficient testing of five student groups.
> Parkview: insufficient testing of six student groups.
> Phoenix: insufficient testing of two student groups.
> Shiloh: insufficient testing of students with disabilities.
> South Gwinnett: insufficient testing of four student groups.
> Oakland Center: insufficient testing of disabled students.
* Note: Beaver Ridge has appealed its status with the state Department of Education.
Source: Georgia Department of Education; Gwinnett County public schools
'No Child' law's expectations turn some into skeptics
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES