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NCLB Outrages

Educators: School law needs change

Ohanian Comment: Note the attempt to shift 'blame' to parents. We should put the blame where it belongs--with political-corporate determination to bring down public education for the common good.

By Ken O'Brien

JOLIET -- Local educators say changes should be made to the No Child Left Behind Act when Congress considers reauthorizing it next year.

Administrators from five districts attended a roundtable Wednesday called by U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris. He invited leaders of the school districts he represents in Will County. The county's northern parts are in the district of U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Hinsdale.

The administrators told Weller that they support the concept of NCLB, which President Bush signed into law in 2002. Last week, Bush called for changes to the act and urged Congress to fund the changes.

The county administrators cited concerns about the lack of accountability for parents and students, the application of the law and how student progress is measured. Nationally, educators have criticized many parts of the act, including the testing component.

Phyllis Wilson, the superintendent of the Joliet Grade School District, called for quarterly testing.

"Stop using high-stakes tests, and again, purposefully to embarrass school districts I suppose," she said. "I don't see any educational benefit to that."

The act should consider local needs, standards and rules, said Paul Swanstrom, the superintendent of the Joliet Township High School District. Additionally, some kids come from "a place of chaos" at home and find "some rational existence" during six hours at school, he said.

"But when they go back to this place of chaos, anything we have done to reach them is lost,'' Swanstrom said. "Because of that, the basic assumption of the law, I think, is flawed.''

The Laraway School District, with 500 students, could use help to pay for technology after getting $1,600 for that this year, said Superintendent Douglas Hesbol. Keith Ashcraft, the superintendent for the Rockdale School District, cited concerns with the certification process for bilingual education.

Mike Perrott, the curriculum coordinator for Wilmington School District, talked about how NCLB uses subgroups to measure progress for an entire school. At Booth elementary, 75 percent of students in the third to fifth grades meet or exceed reading standards and 89 percent do the same for math, he said.

But as a group, the school's 45 disabled students do not meet some standards and as a result Booth is considered to be failing, Perrott said. With three more disabled students, the law would allow the school's status to be changed to passing, he said.

Weller said the House should start working on changes to NCLB early next year, with a vote on a bill possible by the fall. He is running for re-election against Democrat Beecher John Pavich.


— Ken O\'Brien
Herald News


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