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NCLB Outrages

Wisconsin [Local] School Board Member Sees the Reality of NCLB

Ohanian Comment: The existance of clear-headed citizens willing to serve on local school boards is one reason whythe Business Roundtable, the Broad Foundation, and others are working so hard to wrest local control away from the schools.

Suppose we had laws that required that every automobile sold be defect-free; that every person who entered a hospital be cured; or that every individual be thin, healthy and cavity-free. Furthermore, suppose we attached sanctions to these laws, perhaps in the form of fines for individuals or threats of government takeover or the replacement of all employees for businesses.

No one would seriously consider such foolish laws. Yet the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act has public school targets that are equally absurd. Remember this the next time you read that a school in Wisconsin has been labeled as needing improvement.

Last week, 110 Wisconsin schools were identified by the Department of Public Instruction as "schools in need of improvement." This label was given as a result of guidelines established in No Child Left Behind.

Although 110 schools were identified this time around, eventually nearly every school in the state and throughout the nation will fall into this category. This is because the long-range goals of the act are unrealistic and unattainable.

Beginning in 2005-06, each state must expand its statewide testing to include students in grades 3-8 in mathematics and reading. Additionally, each school is required to make what is called "adequate yearly progress" on these tests, meaning that over time greater and greater percentages of students must score at the proficient or advanced levels.

By 2013-14, 100 percent of students tested must score at the advanced or proficient levels on these tests. If even one student in a school scores "minimal" or "basic," the school has "failed" and is subject to significant sanctions, including restructuring, state takeover, conversion to a charter school, dismissal of staff, etc.

This target of 100 percent proficiency is complicated by the fact that 95 percent of students in a school must be tested each year. It doesn't matter if more than 5 percent of students should be excused from testing because of special needs or because they don't speak English. It's also important to keep in mind that in Wisconsin parents can exempt their children from state testing. If too many parents in a school "opt out," the school is a failure no matter how the remaining students do on the tests.

The requirements of No Child Left Behind also apply to alternative public schools and public charter schools, many of which were created to meet the needs of students who do not do well in a traditional school setting, especially when it comes to doing well on standardized tests.

No one argues that schools should not be accountable to the citizens of a community; however, it's a completely different matter when you establish goals that cannot be achieved. Be patient. If your local school is not yet on the list, it will be eventually.

— Nancy A. Allen, Monona Grove School Board member
No Child Left Behind Act demands the impossible
The Capital Times


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