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NCLB Outrages

Proposed Changes Are Minor and Do Not Get At the Heart of the Matter

Fort Smith Superintendent Benny Gooden says although flexibility in the No Child Left Behind law is a positive step, it is not enough.

“It is always positive when state or federal officials are looking at ways to make inflexible legislation more flexible,” Gooden said Wednesday.

But Gooden said proposed changes are minor and do not get “at the heart of the matter.”

Ray Simon, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education for the U.S. Department of Education, recently outlined several ways federal officials intend to make the NCLB law more flexible.

They include concessions for how assessments are administered and calculated for English Language Learners and special education students; the ability for a school to average up to three years of assessment participation to meet a 95 percent participation requirement; and a longer time for schools — particularly in rural locations — to have teaching staff achieve “highly qualified teacher” status.

President Bush on Tuesday echoed Simon’s comments in a policy presentation regarding NCLB at Butterfield Junior High School in Van Buren.

Gooden said he thinks state officials should modify Arkansas’ plan for accountability and take advantage of the fact that federal officials have given decision-making power regarding the law to individual states.

He said, for example, Arkansas officials have said that a minimum of 25 students must be tested in a subgroup for that group’s scores to place a school on an improvement list while other states average a 30 student minimum with some as high as 50. He said the lower the sample size, the more weight each student’s score in that subgroup becomes and the better chance that one low score will diminish a school’s perceived performance.

Paris Superintendent Jim Loyd said a major concern about NCLB has been the subgroup requirements, especially as they apply to special education students.

He said to hear of flexibility for that group is a relief but added it will be hard to determine how much of a relief until specific rules and regulations regarding the flexibility are established.

He said although his district does not want any child left behind, he worries the law strives to make everyone average. He said if standards are lowered so they become more attainable, the purpose of the law will be defeated.

He said his district recognizes that each student has a “niche” and may not perform in some areas as others would.

Loyd said the district’s middle school is on the school improvement list in its first year as the result of a subgroup not making adequate yearly progress as defined in NCLB.

Fairview Elementary School Principal Peggy Walter said her school is thankful for the proposed flexibility. “It’s more than we ever thought we would get,” Walter said.

Walter attended the president’s remarks in Van Buren on Tuesday.

She said a lingering concern is that one test can make the difference in a school’s being labeled as successful or failing.

“We’re very, very relieved that (the president) has given us this (flexibility),” Walter said. “I truly think it’s going to help us.”

Fairview was placed on the state’s school improvement list because of low performance of a black subgroup but is not currently on the list, Walter said.

— Carole Medlock
Education Changes Not Enough
Times Record


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