Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Dorgan hears N.D.’s ‘No Child’ concerns

Kudos to Senator Dorgan.

by Helmut Schmidt, The Forum

By Sen. Byron Dorganâs measures, the federal No Child Left Behind Act deserves failing grades for its inflexible standards, inadequate funding, and for penalizing good schools and teachers, even when students show improvement.

If President Bush wants Congress to reauthorize his centerpiece education program this summer, somethingâs got to give, Dorgan said Thursday.

âEither we have to fix this or scrap it and start over,â Dorgan, D-N.D., told a gathering of about 40 eastern North Dakota teachers, principals and administrators. âTo me, itâs important we try and get this right.â

Dorgan invited them to the Fargo Holiday Inn to get their opinions on what needs to be changed.

He got an earful.

Several said the tests that determine whether schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress to avoid sanctions have schools and teachers focused on teaching to the test, rather than encouraging deeper study and creativity.

Schools are also penalized if they donât make AYP when enough students in any ethnic subgroups or special education students fail to make enough progress, said Gary Clark, principal of West Fargo High School.

âThe idea that weâre going to make 100 percent of these young people successful is unrealistic,â said Paul Tefft, a social studies teacher at West Fargo High School.

At the same time, Tefft said â(No Child Left Behind) is going to further dumb down the courses, water down the content. Young people need to be challenged.â

Bob Grosz, assistant superintendent for instruction for the Fargo School District, said schools should be judged on each studentâs growth, not just test scores, to account for differences between students with learning disabilities and everyone else up to âthe high fliersâ who need extra challenges.

âInstead of AYP, it should be AYG, Adequate Yearly Growth,â Grosz said.

Karen Kuhn, who teaches learning disabled students at Fargoâs Washington Elementary, said some children come from families fractured by drug and alcohol problems.

The children donât get the support they need at home, âyet we expect them to perform as well as others.â

Darrel Lund, a West Fargo Reading Recovery teacher, said there is a need for a national test to prevent some states from setting an artificially low bar for students, while others set higher standards and get penalized.

In addition, the tests may be high stakes for school districts, but theyâre an unwelcome pain for students, said Laura Dronen, a sophomore at Fargoâs North High School.

âTheyâre not getting graded on it, so they donât worryâ about trying to score well, she said.

Teachers also need a break, Tefft said, noting that the rules requiring âhighly qualifiedâ teachers are structured so that 25 percent of instructors will fail every year. âItâs silly.â

âChildren arenât widgets. I see teacher morale being affected,â said Erin Mowers, a teacher at Fargoâs Centennial Elementary.

âThis program deals very little with the personal growth of individual students, when that is something we should beâ focused on, Dorgan said after the meeting.

He said âit stands logic on its headâ to require special education students to meet the same arbitrary standards that average students must. âThatâs a practical impossibility. Yet if they donât succeed in doing that, they lose the very fundingâ Congress authorizes for special education.

No Child Left Behind was first approved in 2002. The law requires schools to prove that a high percentage of students are proficient in reading and writing for their grade levels and that they graduate on time.

— Helmut Schmidt
The Forum


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.