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NCLB Outrages

NCLB Law Based on Texas Education System (In case you hadn't noticed)
FORT WORTH - State and local education officials say Texas is already ahead of other states that will have to meet new federal requirements or be forced to pay for tutoring and transportation for students from low-performing schools.

The No Child Left Behind law is largely based on Texas' education system.

"That's the beauty and the power of the Texas accountability system. It's a very important tool for us," Fort Worth Superintendent Thomas Tocco said. "The real problem that states around the country will have is that they do not have a system set up that is as sophisticated or as advanced as the one we have in Texas. It could hurt them."

No Child Left Behind, which goes into effect this year, requires all schools to show year-to-year improvements on standardized tests for all third- through eighth-graders. Gains must be achieved for various student subgroups, including black, Hispanic, white, Asian, American Indian and economically disadvantaged students, those with limited English skills and the disabled. Schools that fail to show improvements in scores on standardized tests for two consecutive years will be labeled low-performing. If scores keep dropping, administrators must replace the principal and teachers or reopen the school as a charter campus.

The subgroup provision worries education leaders in many states where school districts could be forced to spend millions under already tight budgets.

The Texas Education Agency has sorted student performance scores by subgroups for several years.

"Since we have broken our numbers down and shown performance of our main ethnic groups, we have put the spotlight in that situation," said agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe. "It's very clear whether certain groups are performing or not. And in our state, they are."

Overall, test scores improved by close to 40 percent for Texas' three largest subgroups -- black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged -- in 2002 over the 1994 mark. Scores increased in all subgroups each year the test was administered.

Figures for the Fort Worth school district are similar. Tocco agrees with the U.S. Department of Education's effort to make sure all types of students progress.

Fort Worth district parent Marie Tennison, who is black, said she is glad the federal government is looking at improving scores for "all of our children." But Tennison worries that the state might be too confident about results from the now-defunct Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, which was used for eight years as a measuring stick for future performance.

"We don't even use TAAS anymore, and I hear the new [Texas Assessment of Academic Knowledge and Skills] is going to be a lot tougher," she said. "I think things are not going to be pretty for the first couple of years."

The more rigorous TAKS will be used this year, but the state board of education has not set final accountability standards.

Some of the TAKS' stricter guidelines, like retaining every third-grader who fails the reading portion of the test, will go into effect this year.

— Gustavo Reveles Acosta
Texas Schools in Good Position
Jan. 14, 2002


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