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No Child Left Behind rules are stumping state officials

Ohanian Comment: I wonder how many average citizens can make any sense of this.

by Sue Brook

Requirements measuring success are rising each year

The right answer for solving confusing requirement formulas for federal No Child Left Behind is stumping even those on the N.C. State Board of Education.

The state has 61 of its 115 school systems with “issues” to address. As the formula changes each year, adding progressively higher numbers to measuring success, the number of systems pinpointed is likely to increase, board members were told at their meeting in New Bern last week.

A school system can be flagged for its performance under the federal guidelines even when no individual school in the system is below the standard, explained Lou Fabrizio, accountability services director for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

That can happen when a particular demographic subgroup — say, “limited English proficient” — does not measure up to established goals when tested.

The group may be fewer than 40 at any one particular school, but total that many system-wide. That number is the minimum group size considered statistically reliable, and if that subgroup doesn’t reach goals, it could cause the whole system to be flagged, even though individual schools are not.

“I don’t want to minimize the difficulty we are having, but I don’t want us to exaggerate the problem either,” said Howard Lee, state board chairman. “We look bad enough, to tell the truth, but the numbers look even worse.”

The 61 systems include 57 or 58 of the state’s 1,500 individual schools, according to education administrators.

Schools in some systems, including Mecklenburg and Durham, are being directed by the courts to make changes, such as sending administrators back to school.

“I don’t care where they are,” Lee said. “We’ve got to do better.”

Administrators and board members lamented difficulties in getting both financial and human resources to accomplish the reading, writing and math goals.

The formulas for annual growth and performance standards amended in January 2006, take six typed pages to outline, and include the components of the ABC’s Accountability Program including Adequate Yearly Progress.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 gives schools five years to improve without the potential for drastic results, which include closure.

Parents may opt to move a child from a school that does not meet the standards.

Additional information is available at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/.

Sue Book can be reached at 635-5666 or sbook@freedomenc.com.

— Sue Brook
Sun Journal


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