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NCLB Outrages

Vermont Schools and NCLB

Rutland City School Superintendent Mary Moran said she was not surprised to learn that four city schools had not made adequate yearly progress toward meeting federal standards.

For the first time this year, schools are listed as failing to make adequate progress under the No Child Left Behind Act if subgroups within the school's population do not make the same progress expected of the whole school.

Only Rutland Northeast Primary School met all four of the state's academic standards.

All four Rutland schools that didn't meet the standards - Rutland Northwest, Rutland Intermediate, Rutland Middle and Rutland High - would have shown adequate progress if their student populations were considered overall, Moran said.

Each of these schools were listed because certain groups within the school, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch or students with learning disabilities, did not make sufficient gains on English or math tests, Moran said.

The superintendent said these results were unsurprising because school officials have long been aware of the achievement gap between these groups and other students. The after-school Tapestry program and an early intervention reading program are two efforts to reach the 50 percent of Rutland City elementary school students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

"This list today isn't going to change what we're doing," Moran said Tuesday. "We're going to focus our energy on what we're already doing."

In some cases, schools that are doing well may have the most difficulty showing adequate yearly progress, the superintendent said.

All students are expected to meet math and reading standards by the year 2014, according to the federal education act. As schools get closer to this goal, they may find it becomes increasingly difficult to keep showing the progress expected of them.

What the results do illustrate, however, is the poor fit between federal education mandates and Vermont's educational system, Moran said. Vermont's state standards are more rigorous than most other states, she said, a factor that the federal legislation does not consider.

Under No Child Left Behind, there are no punitive consequences in the first year a school fails to make adequate yearly progress. By the second and third years, however, consequences can include having to give students the choice of attending another school and overhauling teacher training.

These consequences could actually hinder school officials' efforts to improve education, particularly in areas of the curriculum not covered by the math and reading tests, according to the superintendent.

Moran predicted the number of Vermont schools identified as not making adequate yearly progress would increase sharply in coming years. This trend is likely to add to the importance of the discussion over how federal education laws apply to Vermont schools, she said.

"If 75 percent of Vermont schools are (not making adequate progress), something has to give in terms of public policy," she said.

— Seth Harkness
City schools miss mark
Rutland Herald


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