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NCLB Outrages

Should the district dump No Child Left Behind?

Ohanian Comment: It seems quite incredible that a district would put itself in the federal torture system for $138,000. Teachers and parents should get together a hold some bake sales.

Frank Fisher

Could Park City School District leave behind No Child Left Behind? District superintendent Dr. Ray Timothy believes Utah's diagnostic program, the Utah Performance Assessment System for students (U-PASS) better measures a school's and student's performance. Timothy discussed Why U-PASS is a better proficiency determiner, than NCLB and why he would like to see it stand alone.

McPolin Elementary School, Ecker Hill International Middle School and Treasure Mountain International School recently failed to meet NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). All district schools passed U-PASS. The testing took place in the spring of last school year.

While AYP measures a school's progress in bringing all students toward grade-level proficiency, U-PASS measures individual student progress from year to year.

NCLB raises the bar for public schools every year. the 2013-14 school year. 100 percent of students must be working at grade level in order for a school to pass AYP.

Timothy said the 100 percent proficiency mark is unrealistic. He said that special needs kids, by definition, are two years behind grade level performance and AYP doesn't care, expecting them to reach grade level.

As a result of the bar being raised to unrealistic levels, Timothy said that every passing year more schools will fail AYP. He foresees that every school in the state will be failing AYP before 2013-14. He said one parent recently commented to him "Park City schools will fail, but we want to be the last schools to fail."

A low mark in any one of 40 subgroups of students results in a school failing AYP for the year. Ecker Hill failed to meet 3 of the 40 categories: math proficiency among Hispanic students, economically disadvantaged students and limited-English proficiency students.

McPolin and Treasure Mountain each failed 1 of 40 categories, the math proficiency among limited-English proficient students. Timothy said the three schools failed AYP, a result of 12 students performing below federal standards.

"The problem with NCLB, it may label a school a failing school, when in fact it may be one of the best schools in the nation."

While Timothy admits a benefit of No Child Left Behind results, identifying individual students who failed, and what they need help with, he believes the state U-PASS also identifies students who need extra help, and the areas they need help in.

"The two have a different philosophy and approach to the same goal. NCLB has a negative approach. U-PASS recognizes a school's efforts but still holds schools accountable."

"With U-PASS you ask, did the student accomplish a year's academic growth? We hope they will even make a year and a half growth" Timothy said.

Timothy said the Utah State office of Education has looked into dropping NCLB in favor of U-PASS, but federal funding for Title 1 schools would be withheld. Title 1 schools have high percentages of students who come from economically disadvantaged families.

"The whole time I worked at the State office of Education (as deputy superintendent) we wanted U-PASS as the sole accountability for the state. We were continually denied. We were well on our way with U-PASS before NCLB was conceived."

Individual school districts can opt out of NCLB, with the same consequences. McPolin, Parley's Park and Trailside Elementary School are the district's Title One Schools.

Patty Murphy, the business manager for the district, said that the district would lose about $130,000 in Title 1 federal funding if it discarded NCLB. Other federal funding received by the district would not be affected.

"Five percent of the overall budget is wagging 95 percent of the dog," said Timothy.

— Frank Fisher
Park Record


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