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NCLB Outrages

Number of state schools violating No Child Left Behind is increasing

Violating? Violating? A child can't pass a test and school personnel are violating something?

John Ashley, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said No Child Left Behind has been successful in "changing the culture of public education. . . ." Does he know how ugly that culture has become? How damaging to children?

by Sandy Cullen

The number of Wisconsin schools failing to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act will more than double this year, the state's superintendent of public instruction said Friday.

Last year, 45 schools and the Menominee Indian School District were designated as needing improvement for failing to make adequate yearly progress on test scores or other measures for two or more consecutive years.

Three-quarters of those schools are in Milwaukee. Madison's East and La Follette high schools, along with schools in Beloit, Kenosha and Racine, also were on last year's list of schools in need of improvement.

The list of schools that failed to make adequate progress this year, which will be released by the Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday, extend beyond those cities, said Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Schools are measured based on test results, test participation rates, graduation rates and attendance and can be placed on the list for missing goals in any one of those categories.

Burmaster was one of six people invited to testify at a hearing at Monona Terrace on Friday before the Commission on No Child Left Behind, co- chaired by former Gov. Tommy Thompson. The commission is a bipartisan effort to increase the effectiveness of the federal law in closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. It will make recommendations to Congress and the Bush administration in early 2007.

John Ashley, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said No Child Left Behind has been successful in "changing the culture of public education," but its inflexibility and punitive sanctions "have the potential to do great harm."

"Our school boards are struggling to provide the best education they can," Ashley said, adding that the law should "do no harm to what is already working."

No Child Left Behind mandates that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014 and that schools make adequate yearly progress toward that goal.

Schools failing to demonstrate such progress for two years in a row can be subject to consequences if they receive federal funds for educating low-income students. Consequences include allowing parents to transfer their children to better-performing schools, providing tutoring for students from low-income families or restructuring the way the schools operate.

Cheryl Clancy, principal of Kosciuszko Middle School in Milwaukee, said, "It wasn't until sanctions were in place that we were able to take the steps necessary" to make significant improvement in student achievement.

Gene Hickok, senior policy director for Dutko Worldwide and an architect of the No Child Left Behind Act, said "an attitude change" is needed among those who view "options for parents as sanctions for schools."

Clancy said her greatest criticism of the law is its requirement that students who come to this country speaking no English be tested in English rather than in their native language after they have been here for three years, despite research that says it takes five to seven years to be competent in a second language.

Sam Stringfield, acting chairman of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville, said adequate funding is needed in order for schools to make adequate progress.

In addition to ensuring that schools have high quality teachers, Stringfield said resources need to be devoted to developing "dedicated and sophisticated principals."

Others testified that the annual testing required under the law diverts time and money away from classroom instruction that could improve student performance and puts unnecessary stress on students with special needs.

— Sandy Cullen
Wisconsin State Journal


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