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Senator Dodd Seeks Changes in 'No Child' Law

MONTVILLE -- U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., believes that the No Child Left Behind law is a good concept that fails to accomplish its goals.

That's because, Dodd said, it lacks the flexibility to fairly evaluate how well a school is doing in teaching students.

So he has submitted legislation seeking to reform the measure, a proposal that would provide more funding for its implementation and greater flexibility in testing requirements.

"This law is much too rigid," Dodd said Monday during a meeting with parents and school officials at Tyl Middle School in Montville.

The funding question has been a central theme of critics. The Bush Administration's proposed funding for No Child Left Behind is $9.4 billion under what is required to fully implement it. The Senate has proposed funding at $8.6 billion below the necessary amount.

Dodd's reform measure does not speak directly to that issue, but does include $80 million in new funding for grants to aid those schools that need additional resources.

The main thrust, however, of Dodd's reform is the means by which students are evaluated.

"This one standardized test all the time doesn't take into consideration the uniqueness of area, the urban child versus the rural child," he said. "It doesn't allow for the flexibility and the diversity that exists in this country."

Under current law, schools are permitted to use secondary measures to evaluate students' progress. However, schools receive no credit for them. Dodd's proposal would permit school to receive credit for secondary measures that clearly demonstrate progress being made.

During the hourlong discussion, Dodd heard from teachers and parents who talked about the unfairness of the current guidelines that require all students to be tested at the same level. Failure to meet the federally mandated performance levels will result in a school be designated as "under performing."

Tyl School Principal Peter DeLisa said although his school is doing well overall in meeting the goals, the school did fall short of achieving success because a group of special education eighth-graders did not achieve the same level of performance as other students.

"And I expect that it's likely we'll fall short of that again this year," DeLisa said. "It affects us as professionals because it hurts us when the kids don't do well and you don't like to be chastised for something like that."

DeLisa said it is also unfair to the vast majority of the 750 students who are performing well, and praised Dodd for his efforts in providing some relief that would better enable teachers and school administrations to do their job.

Dodd's proposal would permit schools to evaluate student progress by a variety of means and not just a single standardized written test as is now required under the law.

"One of the suggestions that I think makes a lot of sense is having the ability to test a child in a variety of different formats, be it homework, oral presentation, a written test or class performance," he said. "There are all sorts of ways to make an evaluation of how a child is doing other than sitting someone down at 9 tomorrow morning, putting a number two pencil in their hand and saying the next half-hour you're going to be tested."

Dodd's proposed reform measure is scheduled to be brought up in the Senate May 20. Although receiving widespread support among education groups, Dodd admitted the proposal will face stiff opposition by lawmakers.

"There are people who don't want to change anything," Dodd said. "The Bush Administration doesn't want to change a 'dotted i,' and I think they're flat out wrong on that."


— Ray Hackett
Norwich Bulletin


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