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NCLB Outrages


This is listed as an outrage because of Kati Haycock's response: give them an Ipod to get them to take the test.

Let's hope more students opt out next year. If teachers won't bring down NCLB, maybe students will.

By Emily Richmond

It's one thing for tired students to oversleep and miss their first-period history quiz.

At Las Vegas Academy, 33 juniors skipped out on taking the statewide math proficiency test - landing the acclaimed school on a "watch list" for having failed to make adequate progress during the past year.

Hope those Zs were good, because it cost the school its A.

The students were scheduled to take the math test in April, in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

To meet the attendance requirements, 95 percent of the school's 329 eligible juniors were required to take the test. But the AWOL 33 were nowhere to be found, driving down the attendance rate to 85 percent.

As a result of coming up short on that one test, the entire school is considered to have failed to make adequate progress over the year, as demanded by state and federal law. Schools that fail to meet federal benchmarks two years in a row are identified as "needs improvement," and face sanctions for each successive year on the list.

Such notoriety wouldn't sit well at Las Vegas Academy.

"I will bet you my next paycheck no one will sleep in next year," said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington. "Those kids probably didn't think about it real hard when they decided to stay home. My suspicion is the school won't let this happen again."

Las Vegas Academy, the district's award-winning performing arts and international studies magnet high school, is the only campus to not make adequate yearly progress solely because not enough students took a test.

Nevada high school students make their first attempt at the proficiency test as sophomores.

But students know they will have opportunities in their senior year to pass the test, which is a requirement for high school graduation. That may be a disincentive for taking part in the all-important April testing date.

"We can't force them to be there," said Sue Daellenbach, testing director for the district. "We can try very hard to encourage them, but if they don't show up, there's nothing we can do. It's a shame this has happened to them (Las Vegas Academy), because in reality their proficiency rates are very good."

In the past some schools have raffled off portable music players and cars on test days to lure students to school.

Haycock said the direct approach - having teachers remind students of the consequences of not showing up, emphasizing the value of taking the test early and sending letters home to parents - are all effective ways of boosting participation.

"Of course," Haycock added with a laugh, "giving away an iPod wouldn't hurt."

— Emily Richmond
Las Vegas Sun


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