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NCLB Outrages

U. S. Rep. Andrews: Change No Child Left Behind Act

Ohanian Comment: It might be really worth our while to write
and tell him about the Educator Roundtable Petition.

By the way, Andrews voted "Yes" on NCLB on 12/13/01, the day that lives in infamy.

He urges relying less on test scores, beefing up funding, and monitoring for cheating. The act will be tweaked this year.

By Kristen A. Graham

If he has his way, four major changes will get written into the landmark No Child Left Behind Act when the law is reauthorized later this year, U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews (D., N.J.) told a group of South Jersey superintendents yesterday.

Andrews, who serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee, said he believed the law relies too narrowly on one test to measure student performance. "If we measure one student's performance on one test for a few hours, then we fail to get an accurate picture," he said.

Meeting at the Education Information and Resource Center in Sewell with educators from his First Congressional District, which includes parts of Camden, Gloucester and Burlington Counties, Andrews voiced support for changes that other lawmakers and education groups have urged.

He said he supported changing how student performance is measured.

Calling test scores "imprecise measuring tools," Andrews said he favored changes so the tests measure how students progress from one year to the next. Testing now compares one year's fourth graders to the next year's fourth graders, for instance. He also cited problems with measuring special-education students and those learning English.

Andrews said he also was concerned about the federal definition of what constitutes a "highly qualified" teacher, particularly in special education and middle schools. He said the law "undervalues peer evaluation and experience and values tests and a major in college." Superintendents and principals should have more say in who is highly qualified, he said.

Finally, he cited funding. There's a $53 billion funding gap between what districts say they need to implement the law and what they get in federal funding.

"We're not holding up our end of the bargain," Andrews said, noting that superintendents often have to cut staff and programs to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind.

The educators nodded as Andrews spoke. Then they started asking questions.

"Why send kids out for supplemental services [tutoring] when those providers don't have to meet 'highly qualified'?" asked Joyce Stumpo, schools chief of the Gateway Regional School District.

Andrews shook his head.

"The present law is tilted toward the supplemental services provider and it should be the opposite," he said, adding that he believed districts should be able to perform all remedial actions in-house if evaluated properly.

In an interview, Andrews reiterated his support for changes in the law to require testing audits to check for cheating.

Andrews first addressed the issue in October after a state investigation concluded that suspiciously high test results at two Camden elementary schools in 2005 stemmed from "adult interference." The state looked into the results after The Inquirer questioned the scores.

There are no federal mandates requiring states to watch for cheating.

Andrews said he wasn't certain what form the monitoring should take and that he did not want to automatically assume that all schools with large gains were cheating.

"I want to learn from states that do it well," he said. "We will wind up with a thoughtful auditing of districts that may be cheating."

— Kristen A. Graham
Philadelphia Inquirer


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