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NCLB Outrages

The 'NCLB game' is not winnable

Kudos to this group.

by Members of Hailey & Bellevue Elementary PTA

This guest opinion was submitted by the following members of the Board of the PTA of Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools: Dayle Ohlau-Graham, Kathryn Graves, Elise Bingham, Cynthia Carr and Elizabeth Schwerdtle.

Recently, a guest opinion in the Mountain Express by Dr. Mary Gervase, assistant superintendent of schools of Blaine County, reported the results of testing mandated by federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.

Dr. Gervase stated that while the district's test results as a whole showed improvement, a few student subgroups had failed to make "adequate yearly progress", resulting in "needs improvement" status for one school and "alert" status for two others.

We would like to assure parents that these ratings are not cause for alarm. In fact, we have learned that it is NCLB that should be on the "needs improvement" listónot our schools.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) NCLB demands that schools attain 100 percent passing of 42 different subgroups (Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, etc.) by 2014. This is a virtually unobtainable goal and sets up as many as 99 percent of schools for failure, according to studies by several states, including California.

2) Each year until 2014, schools are expected to make an "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) target, which is the increment needed to bring all students in every group to 100 percent passing by 2014. Predictably, more schools fail to make this steeply rising goal every year. This year, three out of five schools in Idaho failed to make AYP. Similar results are reflected nationwide.

3) The consequences for failing to make AYP are serious. Any school that misses even one of their subgroup's targets for two years gets a "needs improvement" (i.e. failing) rating and must permit student transfers. Three years brings supplemental tutorial services (private companies only must be hired at taxpayer's expense); four years brings replacement of school staff; five years brings restructuring, which can mean anything from state takeover to imposing private management on public schools.

It's hard to imagine how these punishments would help our schools. Instead, they seem more likely to create chaos.

4) "High stakes testing," which NCLB uses as its sole indicator of student progress, harms the quality of education by pushing aside subjects that don't lend themselves to multiple choice testing, including the arts and critical thinking.

We also have serious concerns about the reliability of standardized test scores, since they have been proven to show bias against some of the very subgroups that are supposed to benefit from the testing.

5) NCLB is massively under-funded by $27 billion nationally, and $52 million in Idaho, aloneóa tab taxpayers must cover in higher local and state taxes.

In short, the "NCLB game" is not winnable. In fact, with its reliance on high stakes testing and harsh sanctions, both of which harm the quality of our children's education, it's a game that isn't even worth playing.

Many parents, educators and legislators across the country are realizing this. Just last week, Connecticut sued the federal government regarding NCLB.

We know we have a great school system in Blaine County. We have wonderful, dedicated teachers, caring and accessible administrators, and a hardworking staff that deals successfully with a variety of challenges among a diverse student body.

So, no worries, Dr. Gervase. We are behind you all the way. We hope to work with the school district to find some solutions to the many obstacles presented by this law.

— Members of Hailey & Bellevue Elementary PTA
Idaho Mountain Express


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