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NCLB Outrages

Time to leave No Child Left Behind

Here's how Minnesota 2020
describe themselves:
Minnesota 2020 is a progressive, non-
partisan think tank, focused on what really
matters. We focus public policy debate on the
issues that matter for Minnesota's future

We are tired of a state that focuses on
divisive side issues while our schools, health
care, transportation, and economic development
suffer. Minnesota is great when we have good
transportation, strong job creation, universal
health care and quality schools.

They don't go far enough with regards NCLB, but
at least it's a start.

Matt Entenza and John Fitzgerald

Almost every Minnesota principal agrees that
the federal No Child Left Behind lawâs main
goal is unattainable. A survey of more than 740
principals, conducted in December by Minnesota
2020, found that 97 percent of the stateâs
principals donât think schools will achieve
reading and math proficiency by 2014.
âNCLBâs goals are as unreasonable as expecting
that if we all practice bowling enough weâll
all bowl 300s within a few years,â one
principal wrote. âI believe in high
expectations, but high does not mean
unreasonable or impossible.â

The principals also said NCLB forces schools to
take away education in some areas to increase
education in others, sometimes called âteach-
ing to the test.â To improve their standardized
test scores, 71 percent say they are spending
more time and resources on test preparation and
40 percent say they have taken away class time
from arts and other subjects.

NCLB was signed into law by President George W.
Bush in 2001. It requires schools to test
students in reading and math and separate the
results into subgroups based on race, special
education, poverty and English as a second
language status. Each state determines which
test is used and what constitutes adequate
yearly progress. Each year the level of
proficiency moves up toward the goal of 100
percent proficiency in 2014. If one subgroup
fails, the entire school fails.

Principals generally agreed with the subgroup
rankings, except when it comes to testing
special education students or students who
donât speak English as a first language. Many
schools fail to make AYP because of how special
education and non-English speaking students
perform on the test. Almost 90 percent of the
principals say special education students
should not be tested at grade level, while 88
percent feel the same about non-English
speaking students.

âThe people making ridiculous decisions like
âall students will be proficient by 2014â are
welcome to come to my school any day so that I
can introduce them to each of the students who
wonât be proficient by 2014, despite making
individual progress and personal gains. It is a
nice thought, but not at all realistic in the
trenches,â another principal wrote.

The state has developed the Minnesota
Comprehensive Assessment-Series II to use as
the NCLB test. Unlike other assessments that
chart growth through the year and from grade to
grade, the MCA-II is a high-stakes test that
shows what each child knows on one day.
Teachers say MCA-II is an ineffective measure
of student development. Only 15.5 percent of
principals say the MCA-II is an effective
assessment of student achievement while 96.7
percent said that an assessment that measures
student growth over many years is more useful
than the MCA-II.

Principals say forcing schools to put students
through a high-stakes test has caused them to
adjust their curriculaâput another way, it
forces them to teach to the test.

âWhen all your time is directed to test
preparation, the students lose out on problem-
solving skills, critical thinking skills,
creativity, multiple methods for learning,
outside resources, and the desire to be a life
long learner,â another principal wrote.

It is wrong to hold special education and non-
English speaking students to the same standards
as other students. These students must be
tested but at age or grade-appropriate levels.
NCLB forbids this.

Tracking student achieve-ment is a valuable
goal, but the MCA-II delivers limited value. It
forces principals to curtail some subjects in
favor of others, perverting the idea of a well-
rounded education. Minnesota needs formative
assessments that measure individual student
progress over time.

NCLB is a deeply flawed program demanding an
unattainable end result. Unless the 2014
compliance requirement is changed, Minnesota
should drop out of NCLB.

Minnesota has always been a leader in education
innovation. Now, our state must blaze itsâ own
trail again, veering away from NCLB and toward
a testing and accountability goal that benefits
our students and Minnesotaâs future.

Matt Entenza is Minnesota 2020 Board chairman
and John Fitzgerald is Minnesota 2020 Education

— Matt Entenza and John Fitzgerald
Bemidji Pioneer


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