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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind earns criticism

Kudos to teachers willing to speak out. And kudos to a Representative who listens to teachers.

By Cori Bolger

Conversation was often passionate and emotional during a forum on No Child Left Behind hosted Tuesday evening by the Lake Oswego School District and Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Oregon.

The NCLB Act, a federal law signed in 2002, reauthorizes a number of federal programs that aim to improve the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools by increasing the standards of accountability for school districts.

The much-debated law is up for reauthorization this year, and Hooley is working on potential fixes for the original legislation, including growth modeling and testing standards.

Hooley, who represents Oregonâs fifth congressional district, which includes Lake Oswego, organized the forum to get parent and teacher input that she could take back to Washington, D.C.

âWhat leaders pay attention to makes a difference, and weâre certainly paying attention,â Hooley said.

Parents and teachers from across the Portland area attended the talk, held Tuesday at Lakeridge High School. Many voiced strong opinions, including why they believe the NCLB Act is inherently flawed and why its requirements hurt â not help â public school students.

Melodie Sherer, an instructional assistant with the Tigard-Tualatin School District, said she once held back tears as she helped students complete an NCLB-required test that was beyond their capability.

âThey said, âI donât understand this; I am so stupid,ââ Sherer recalled. âI was spending my time testing, not teaching ⦠It taught them to hate school and think their teachers donât care about them, and you know thatâs not true.â

NCLB requires states to create an accountability system of assessments, graduation rates and other indicators.

Schools have to make âAdequate Yearly Progressâ as determined by the state, by raising the achievement levels of subgroups of students â such as low-income, special education and minorities â to a state-determined level of proficiency. All students must be proficient by the 2013-2014 school year.

The act also requires that all teachers be âhighly qualifiedâ as defined in the law. A âhighly qualifiedâ teacher is one who has fulfilled the stateâs certification and licensing requirements.

For example, secondary level teachers must pass a state test in each academic subject area they teach, plus have either an undergraduate major, a graduate degree, coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major or an advanced certification.

Thatâs a problem for Tony Crawford, a seasoned Canby Middle School geography teacher.

Even though Crawford is admired by his students and colleagues, nominated for âOregon Teacher for the Yearâ and writes national geography curriculum, he is not considered âhighly qualifiedâ because he does not have a degree in geography.

Crawford believes this is another aspect of NCLB that does not make sense.

His comments resonated with Mike Park, who left his 20-plus years teaching in Molalla to get an $18,000 raise as a city manager.

âThis is how frustrated I am with it,â Park said. âYouâre not considered âhighly qualifiedâ even if you work your butt off in your community and state. It still doesnât count.â

NCLB puts too much focus on outcome rather than input, said Pat Burk, chief policy adviser for the Oregon Department of Education.

Hooleyâs bill to change NCLB, he said, would add âgrowth measuresâ to the act and give the public a better idea of how a majority of students are getting better academically. The current NCLB only looks at a portion of students and requires that only 50 percent of students meet standards.

âIf Iâm a parent, I want to know more than that,â he said.

Many of the publicâs opinions echoed that of LOSD Superintendent Bill Korach, who has long criticized NCLB for what he says are illogical assumptions about what kids should achieve.

âItâs bordering on insane. It makes no sense in the ways it plays out,â Korach said.

For example, district schools are annually labeled on a five-point scale, and a school can be deemed below exceptional if one sub-group chooses to opt out of testing. The school is then penalized.

NCLB also raises performance expectations over a period of years with the assumption that all kids will always be achieving high standards.

âYou will never be able to get all kids reaching high standards,â Korach said. â(NCLB) ignores what we know about human ability and intelligence ⦠It is doomed to fail.â

— Cori Bolger
Lake Oswego Review


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