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NCLB Outrages

Merits of No Child Left Behind at Center of Education Summit

No Child Left Behind is inflexible and unrealistic, its critics said Tuesday at Winona State University.

But one of its chief designers says that flexibility is a hallmark of the federal education act, often referred to as "nickel-bee," for its acronym, NCLB.

No Child Left Behind, which became law in 2001, emphasizes "high-stakes testing." It increases the number of standardized tests students are given and penalizes schools that fail to meet performance standards that critics argue are unattainable.

"There is no doubt about it this is a significant increase in (the federal government's) role" in public education, said Eugene Hickok, the U.S. undersecretary of education.

States, however, are free in to determine how to implement the requirements, Hickok said. Each state sets its own graduation standards and tests accordingly.

"Every state chose their own path," he said. As a result, standards and successes vary greatly. "I think that will gradually work its way out."

Hickok and Minnesota Education Secretary Cheri Pierson Yecke were among the panel members of Education Summit 2004, held Monday and Tuesday, that focused on the pros and cons of NCLB.

Joel Alter, from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, said between 80 percent and 100 percent of state school districts will fail to comply with NCLB requirements by 2013-14.

The act requires 95 percent of each district's students n and subsets of students, such as African Americans and those who receive free or reduced-price lunches n to meet the testing standards or their schools will face penalties that range from offering extra tutoring time to yielding control to the state.

"The bottom line: it will be extremely difficult for schools to comply," Alter said.

Alter said the state's school superintendents were surveyed and 95 percent don't favor opting out of NCLB, which would cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding.

But the superintendents don't support NCLB, either, he said.

"In their view, the law is costly, punitive and unrealistic," he said.

St. Charles Superintendent Thomas Ames said NCLB ought to be opposed on "moral reasons."

Ames noted that Douglas McGregor believed people fall into two categories: Theory X people inherently dislike work, believe people must be coerced or controlled to do work to achieve objectives and believe that people prefer to be directed.

Theory Y people view work as being as natural as play and rest, believe people will exercise self-direction and -control toward achieving objectives they are committed to and believe that people learn to accept and seek responsibility.

If you believe in Theory X, Ames said, "Then No Child Left Behind is for you."

— Kirsten Singleton
Winona Daily News


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