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NCLB Outrages

Here's the Senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education & the Workforce Pronouncing on NCLB

Ohanian Comment: Politicians like to pose the questions and then answer them. Maybe we should ask Representative Miller a few questions of our own.


No Child Left Behind:
Frequent Questions and Accurate Answers

Dear Colleague:

My office is often contacted by Members, press, parents and education professionals with requests for information about the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I hope the information below can help clarify some of the common misperceptions and assist you in responding to inquiries your office receives about the law.

The law largely builds on standards and procedures already in effect at the state level in order to achieve the goal of assuring that every child masters high academic standards. There is increasing evidence that the law is already having an impact in closing the achievement gap for students who have traditionally been left behind. The core of the law is to assure that each child reach basic educational levels of achievement

I hope this information proves useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, or my Committee staff, should you have questions.


Senior Democratic Member


Q: Does NCLB require new tests to be given?

A: The vast majority of academic testing in our public schools is due to State and local requirements. Many states had annual state assessments before the passage of NCLB. States develop these assessments under NCLB based on their own standards and requirements, not according to uniform Federal standards. This testing builds on the 1994 amendments to Title I, the cornerstone program of NCLB, which already required testing in math and reading once in elementary, middle and high school.

NCLB requires states to test students in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading by the 2005-2006 school year. Science is also required to be assessed starting in the 2007-2008 school year, but less frequently (e.g. once in 3 different grade spans 3-5; 6-9; and 10-12).

Q: What is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

A: AYP is the centerpiece of the accountability system for school districts and schools. In a nutshell, AYP measures the progress schools make in student achievement each year. The 1994 ESEA law called for each State to develop a definition of AYP, and NCLB has led States to update their definitions of AYP.

Q: Why does NCLB measure achievement by subgroups?

A: AYP is calculated based on the performance of subgroups of children at each school. Subgroups include children with disabilities, children with limited English proficiency, children from low-income families, and children of major racial and ethnic groups. AYP measures progress based on subgroups so the achievement of all students are considered in a school. If data is not broken down – or “disaggregated” -- by subgroups, a school’s overall performance could – and often did -- mask a severe lack of achievement by a subgroup in that school that could be considered successful even if one or more of these subgroups were not meeting academic standards. Historically, the performance of disadvantaged subgroups has been masked by schools, creating an “achievement gap.” And it is those subgroups that Title I is supposed to benefit specifically. If they are not achieving educational improvement, then the program is not working as intended.

Q: Are schools “punished” under NCLB?

A: This is a very common misperception about NCLB. NCLB does not label schools “failures.” Schools are not punished—they are provided services to help them achieve improved educational performance. If any subgroup in a school does not meets its AYP goals for two consecutive years, the school is placed in “school improvement” status (not labeled as “failures” as some report), and additional resources flow to the school to help it improve, and students are offered supplemental assistance. This two-year period ensures that schools are not negatively affected by one year of low test scores. One year of bad results does not mean a school is struggling academically. Rather than punish schools for a one-year dip in their academic progress, NCLB ensures that schools are assessed based on a repeated pattern of academic performance.

If a school does not meet AYP standards for four consecutive years, the school is placed in “corrective action” status. Only after six consecutive years of not meeting its AYP goals is the school placed in “restructuring” status. There are a number of options the school can choose from in order to restructure, such as hiring new staff.

Whenever a school does not achieve the progress required for two consecutive years, it develops an improvement plan to address the academic issues at the school, and receives additional resources and assistance from the school district. These planning activities are provided for two years and are designed to specifically address the needs of the school and its students. Only after a school has failed to make the State’s academic progress goals for six consecutive years are serious changes required at the school.

Q: What is the “safe harbor” provision?

A: This provision allows schools to be given credit for making significant academic gains, even when they don’t meet AYP. If a school makes up 10% of the gap between the actual performance of their children and the ultimate goal of all their children meeting academic standards in any given year, a school is placed in a “safe harbor.” Even if such a school doesn’t actually meet AYP, the school gets credit for significantly improving academic performance and is not moved to the next level of the AYP time frame. This prevents any new consequences from being applied to such a school.

Q: Why does NCLB require that 95% of each subgroup of students be assessed?

A: A full 95% of each subgroup of students must take the assessments in order for a school to meet AYP. This is a focus of NCLB because in many cases, disadvantaged and minority children were previously excluded from State accountability systems, resulting in distorted results that camouflaged the lack of achievement of these children. In some documented cases, students were excused from school on test day to allow only more proficient students to take the test. Requiring that a high percentage of students take the test ensures that the progress of all children in a school counts towards its academic performance. A school that does not assess 95% of its students, and therefore doesn’t make AYP, is not necessarily considered to be “failing.” This type of finding merely points out that the school needs to assess more of its children.

Q: Would a school be subject to corrective actions based on faulty, unreliable, or random data?

A: No. A school may appeal a finding that it did not meet State academic standards. NCLB prevents small numbers of students in a school as a whole or in any specific subgroup to skew the assessment results. Scores do not count, and in fact are not even required to be reported, in cases in which “the number of students is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information.”

Q: What are NCLB’s “highly qualified” teacher requirements?

A: Quality teachers are an essential part of successful schools. And yet, in many schools, some teachers lack the basic training they need to effectively instruct students in particular subjects. NCLB says that every student has the right to a highly qualified teacher, which is defined in three ways. Teachers must:

(1) possess State certification or licensure;

(2) have at least a BA degree or higher; and

(3) demonstrate knowledge of the subjects that they teach.

Teachers can demonstrate their subject matter knowledge in a number of ways, including majoring in the subject or demonstrating their subject matter knowledge through an assessment. Veteran teachers have even more flexibility and can demonstrate their knowledge through a State-defined review process.

NCLB does not require any new State certification or licensure requirements. It leaves it up the States to define what is necessary for a teacher to be deemed certified. NCLB does, however, allow professionals to obtain their State certification through alternative means, not only through traditional schools of education. As noted, teachers are not required to major in the subject they teach to meet the subject matter requirements of this law. Instead, they may take a subject matter test, or go through the State-defined review process described above.

Q: What requirements does NCLB place on teacher’s aides (paraprofessionals)?

A: NCLB only affects teacher aides (also known as “paraprofessionals”) who are employed in a Title I program. NCLB requires teacher aides who provide instructional assistance in these programs to meet one of three requirements:

two years of college;

an Associates degree; or
passage of a test demonstrating their ability to provide instructional assistance in math, writing and reading.
Teacher aides hired after NCLB was enacted (January 8, 2002) have to meet one of these requirements to be employed in a Title I program. Teacher aides hired before NCLB was enacted have until January 2006 to meet one of these requirements. NCLB also allows school districts to use their Title I and teacher quality funding to train teacher aides and help them improves their skills.

For more information on No Child Left Behind, go to http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/eseainfo.html

— Congressman George Miller
NCLB: Frequent Questions and Accurate Answers



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