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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind setting below-average goals

Diane Hanfmann Comment:

Although my observations certainly have led me to the belief that No Child Left Behind is
detrimental to the interests of gifted/advanced learners, never did I expect to hear this neglect so clearly expressed by Secretary Spellings. My interpretation of her words lead me to believe that many others may join the gifted in escaping the concern/felt responsibility of our national leader of education.

This article clearly reminds me of my long held question: How can an act titled No Child Left Behind actually leave children behind without a need for a name change? I would suggest this act renamed as No Child Is Different to present a more accurate connection between title and reality.

If Ms. Spellings finds 25% of our nation's children as her focus, should she collect only 25% of her salary? What excuses her from responsibility for the remaining 75% who must comply with compulsory school attendance laws? Go figure....and then act to make every child's growth equally important in your child's school, district, and state. Actively aid in the reauthorization or dismantling of NCLB. 75% of our country's children need YOUR active voice...you will soon read in the article the incredible words spoken by the Secretary of Education. You can see that Ms. Spellings cannot be trusted to show adequate concern for all America's learners.

Mary Wolf-Francis

When Margaret Spellings visited the Southeast Valley this spring, she was asked to respond to the question about the effects of No Child Left Behind on the average and above-average students.

Her response was frightening.

Spellings declared that No Child Left Behind is about the "vast, vast number of young Americans who lack the ability to be successful in our country. That is our prime directive, our highest priority."

The highest public education official in our country essentially stated that public schools should be dedicated to below-average students. This may be seen as a call for all parents of average to above-average students to run, don't walk, to their nearest private school.

Spellings takes it a step further by defining the problem as related to race, saying, "We're only graduating half of our Hispanic and half our African-American students on time."

Did I hear you say public education is dedicated to underachieving students of color? Political correctness aside, these are not the only students who lack the ability to be successful. Would you be surprised if we told you that many of our best and brightest students fit this category?

As many as 40percent of all gifted students are underachievers, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, and between 10 and 20percent of all high school dropouts test in the gifted range.

Consider, then, that many other populations of students are being left behind, especially as funds are diverted into meeting the mandates of this narrow legislation.

Almost 10percent of the state's K-12 education budget is derived from federal funds that are meant to be used to meet the NCLB mandates targeted to the children who are not meeting adequate yearly progress. Much of the rest of the schools' resources, that we now know are also needed to meet these mandates, come from state-allocated dollars that are meant to be used to provide a high-quality education for all children, even those who have met or exceeded the standards.

According to the Davidson Institute, "Roughly 1.5million students need a curriculum more rigorous than the current standard."

Another survey of post-high school students showed 88percent would have worked harder if their high schools had set higher standards.

In her efforts to achieve equity, Spellings gives permission, and one could argue encouragement, to ignore the opportunity to challenge the average and above-average students.

Federal and state officials provide no incentives for teachers to attend to the academic growth of students once they have attained a 10th-grade education or certainly not to challenge above-average and gifted students to their potential. NCLB supports the proposition that achieving proficiency on our AIMS test is good enough. In other words, shoot for the middle, everyone. Mediocrity for all.

I am not proposing that parents take their high achievers out of the public-education system-- yet. Nor am I proposing that educators ignore underachievers. I am asking for the system to make a commitment to academic growth for all students by making NCLB about Adequate Yearly Progress for every child. Shouldn't we give students the opportunity to demonstrate Accelerated Yearly Progress as well? That sounds more like it.

Even the AIMS test has an "exceeding" category. Provide the needed incentive for educators to ensure even their best and brightest are given a chance to push themselves academically.

I believe students who are non-proficient would be better served by a systematic plan to move the maximum number of learners toward high-achieving excellence rather than ho-hum adequate.

— Mary Wolf-Francis
Arizona Republic


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