Illinois Schools Chief Urges Fixes to Federal Education Law
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Illinois superintendent of schools says President George W. Bush's administration needs to fix its No Child Left Behind education law before expanding it, but he says Illinois schools will still respond to the challenge.
Bush last week began a push to require high school students to take the math and reading tests now required of younger students under No Child Left Behind.
Interim State Superintendent Randy Dunn, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale administrator who is temporarily leading the Illinois State Board of Education, told the Southern Illinoisan he was glad to see the president put more focus on the high school grades but worries that there are still too many problems with the law.
No Child Left Behind highlights gaps between different student groups' performances, but it also mistreats some students, particularly those in special education, with a hard line of success or failure based on one standardized test, Dunn said.
"Before we start adding to the portfolio of (No Child Left Behind), we need to address the problems facing it," Dunn said.
But he said that whether those problems are fixed or not, Illinois' schools will respond.
"It may not be a policy that has legs to carry it over the decades, but it's our charge not to ignore it because it might go away," Dunn said.
Bush wants to require states to test students annually in reading and math in grades 3 through 11. The law he signed in 2002 required those tests in grades 3 through 8, and at least once during grades 10 to 12. He also wants the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress administered in every state in reading and math every two years, just as it is in those subjects in grades 4 and 8.
Bush said last week that the testing would help U.S. students become more competitive, give more meaning to diplomas and push schools to ensure children are prepared for employment in technologically advanced jobs.
The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to raise achievement among poor and minority children and penalize schools that don't make adequate yearly progress.
Nearly 30 percent of Illinois' public schools fell short of meeting the federal achievement guidelines during the last school year. The Illinois State Board of Education reported in December that 1,086 schools out of 3,801 statewide failed to make "adequate yearly progress," about 150 fewer than failed the previous year.
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