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NCLB Outrages

Sandburg appeals status under NCLB

By Robert Lewis

FREEPORT - There was a problem with the 2005 Illinois Standards Achievement Test, and therefore Carl Sandburg School should not be punished for low scores - or so school officials claim.

Carl Sandburg is appealing its status under the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind and will have a hearing Dec. 2. The school missed the law's targets last year with only 38.2 percent of its black students in the fifth grade meeting or exceeding standards in reading on the 2005 ISAT, according to the school's report card. The school needed to have 44.3 percent of that sub-group score at or above a level of proficiency in order to meet the law's requirements.

But there was a problem with the test. The state cut a portion of the reading test - a fiction extended response - after some students across the state had access to the section. The state instead put more weight on the nonfiction portion.

Officials from the Illinois State Board of Education have said the change did not affect the results. District 145 officials, however, disagree. The change calls into question the statistical validity of the test, said Patricia Burke, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Of the school's 90 black fifth-graders, 21 were within one or two questions of passing the reading section of the 2005 ISAT, school principal Charles McNulty said. The students might have passed had the state not dropped the fiction section, he added.


If a school meets all of the law's targets, the state considers it to have made adequate yearly progress, or AYP. If a school does not make AYP for two years in a row, the state places it in Academic Early Warning Status and the school can face sanctions from having to offer students tutoring to total restructuring. To exit the list, a school must make AYP for two consecutive years.

The state placed Carl Sandburg on the early warning list after the school did not make AYP in 2002 and 2003. The school met the law's targets in 2004 and would have made it off the list if it had met AYP in 2005.

School officials will plead their case before an appeals advisory committee at 3 p.m. Dec. 2 in downtown Chicago. The committee will be made up of nine people including a parent, principal and several teachers, according to information from the state.

The committee also will be hearing an appeal request from the Chicago Public School District on Dec. 2, McNulty said. He hoped having a large district like Chicago also appealing might help Carl Sandburg School's chances.

“They have attorneys and whole divisions working toward this,” McNulty said.

Superintendent Peter Flynn said he could not predict what the state would decide. But he was hopeful, given the public problems with the test as well as the fact the district was not alone in appealing its AYP status.

— By Robert Lewis
The Journal-Standard


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