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NCLB Outrages

But who fails with 'A' grades? Public schools under assault

Here is the horrendous case of a school with teachers who've worked together a long time, a school that consistently rates an "A" on state assessments, and a school facing restructuring because that what NCLB decrees.

Representatives of Education Trust would declare these teachers have the bigotry of low expectations.

By Bill Archer

Longstreet Elementary School succeeded in making it has sixth consecutive "A" grade on the FCAT in '07 while simultaneously failing the Adequate Yearly Progress measure of the federal No Child Left Behind act for the fifth time in a row. Its pupils are among the 18,000 pupils in Volusia and Flagler counties who have the option of transferring to a more successful school because of its failure to meet the AYP. Longstreet failed by some ridiculously marginal standard which is statistically negligible if it weren't for the devious intricacies of the federal evaluation procedures.

But if it has made all those "A" grades on Jeb Bush's FCAT, isn't it one of the best schools in Volusia County?

In recent years the majority of parents have chosen for their pupils to remain at this little high-performing but "failing" Title 1 school in spite of more than half its population being characterized as impoverished according to federal standards. It is located between the palatial estates built on the banks of the Halifax River to its west and the towering and elegantly appointed condos on the ocean to its east in Daytona Beach Shores. Most people new to the Daytona Beach area enrolling their children there couldn't imagine that it is one of those impoverished Title 1 schools. They really don't know what to expect when they find out they have enrolled their children in such a school.

It doesn't take long for parents to realize the school is staffed with excellent professional educators who have high expectations for all pupils no matter their economic, racial, ethnic backgrounds or place of origin. Many of the teachers have been a part of a team that has worked together for years despite having four changes of principals in nine years. New administrators have really had to do nothing more than put their fingers on the pulse of the school as it chugged along getting those children to produce FCAT "A" grades. This allowed the administrators to devote more time to special projects for the school and tweak areas that could be improved.

The team adjusted to the silliness of the FCAT requirements and its narrow band of basic skills to be taught. It was obvious to the team that many skills and other areas of the wider education range would now be ignored as focus would center on the FCAT. The teachers taught the pupils well. But, ironically, the pupils' scores were so high that when the federal act came into existence those scores would be Longstreet's downfall.

The Adequate Yearly Progress part of the act would make it impossible for Longstreet to pass. How do you improve an "A" grade? The federal act requires improvement! So Longstreet has failed the federal measure for years and has been under corrective actions and sanctions, has had administrator changes and is in the position of being "restructured." According to the federal act, the school could even be dismantled and its teachers farmed out to other schools or dismissed if not meeting the act's "highly qualified teacher" requirements.

Title 1 money has been diverted from the county's normal usage to instead be used for busing the pupils who will choose to transfer or for those eligible for tutoring. The Longstreet team continues to work unflinchingly hard teaching the children. They will continue until they are able to retire from a public education system that has been hijacked by the federal government with a program that assures its eventual privatization and allegiance to the new Corporate States of America.

The public schools are now losing traditional professional educators who once formed the backbone of a vibrant and creative country that rose to the pinnacle of nations. Replacing them is a group of people trained to follow orders or else. This pattern is dramatically illustrated in the acquiescence of school leadership to the demands of narrow, high-stakes testing programs and the federal act's impossible standards.

Teams of veteran professional educators, teams like Longstreet's, are quickly departing the arena. With their departure ends the opportunity for public schools to teach children the importance of resisting the merciless values the Bush administration continues to impose.

Archer is school counselor at Longstreet Elementary.

— Bill Archer
Daytona Beach News-Journal


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