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NCLB Outrages

Forum on `No Child' act brings out sharp division

Siu-Runyan Comment: Those who know NCLB Act is a sham and speak out need to be praised. And those who don't speak out need to start making their voices heard. The NCLB Act needs to be revoked and buried under concrete never to raise its ugly head ever again.

By Renee Koury

The federal government's No Child Left Behind Act proved just as contentious during a forum in Palo Alto on Saturday as it is on the national scene.

Hoover Institution senior fellow Terry Moe found himself on the defensive during a presentation at the Avenidas senior center, where he praised President Bush's initiative for standardized testing of every child, saying it can identify and make public which schools are failing.

``No Child Left Behind is a slogan,'' Moe said. ``But it's a good slogan. It's like D-day for accountability for the public schools.''

But Stanford University education dean Deborah Stipek, who agreed schools benefit from testing, said the law needs ``a complete overhaul.''

She said the law neglects to offer ways to fix or replace failing schools, or improve teacher performance.

``You can shut down a school that isn't doing well, but then where are these kids going to go?'' she said. ``You can get rid of all the teachers, but it's not like you have a lot of great teachers lining up to take their place.'' She said a more apt name for the federal act might be ``No Child Left Untested.''

And several in the audience of about 80 people, most senior citizens, blasted the law as an unfair indictment of teachers, many of whom they said must teach children dealing with a variety of problems from learning disabilities and limited English to poverty and broken homes.

``It seems to me this law is a way to demonize and penalize the very people who are trying so hard to do the work,'' said Ellen Smith, a former substitute teacher who serves on an education committee for the League of Women Voters. ``It is very punitive to me. Instead, why can't we think about how we can help teachers go into a school and turn it around?''

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, requires schools to give students standardized tests to show they have achieved benchmarks of proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Students in failing schools have a right to be reassigned or get tutoring paid for by the district, Moe said.

Moe said the law takes an important first step by focusing attention on failing schools. He contended that districts in the past were able to operate in obscurity and allow academic failures to slide.

But Stipek complained that the law puts too much emphasis on testing, while doing little to reform education.
Contact Renee Koury at rkoury@mercurynews.com

— Renee Koury
San Jose Mercury News


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