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State joins protest of education law

Susan Notes: (gh here) And one more state weighs in for common sense...

March 5, 2004

Citing unrealistic requirements, Indiana education officials are joining with the nation's governors and state policy-makers in calling for an overhaul of President Bush's No Child Left Behind act.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to add its name to a letter being sent to lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Education, seeking changes in the federal school accountability law.

"It's important that we support these educational groups," board member David O. Dickson said before the 6-5 vote.

Statewide associations representing superintendents, principals, teachers, school boards and urban districts have complained that the federal law is too rigid and imposes impractical goals.

Those groups plan to lobby Indiana's congressional delegation and the federal Education Department for modifications to the law, which measures accountability, student progress and teacher quality annually.

Their focus is on changing the law's goal of having students -- including special education students and those with limited English skills -- 100 percent proficient in math, English and science by the 2013-14 school year.

"While the intent of the law is good, No Child Left Behind needs revision," said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Duncan Pat Pritchett, who heads the state's largest school district and believes school progress must be measured over time.

National education groups, Republican and Democratic governors and the National Conference of State Legislatures have expressed similar concerns.

The federal law requires annual testing in Grades 3-8. Test scores are used to judge school improvement.

If schools fail to show improvement for two consecutive years, students can transfer to higher-performing schools in the district.

After the third year, schools also must provide tutoring or other remedial help for students who struggle. They must use the federal aid they receive to pay transportation and tutoring costs.

While sanctions apply only to schools that receive federal Title I funds, which are used to help boost the achievement of poor and minority children, all schools are subject to labels.

Concern that schools with diverse enrollments are less likely to meet the improvement targets is growing nationally.

Arizona, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming have proposed or passed legislation that would let them opt out of No Child Left Behind and forfeit federal funding.

"We're two years into this law. . . . We're going to see more schools in need of improvement this year," said Dane Linn, education director for the National Governors Association.

Using an "intrusive, one-size-fits-all" approach isn't the way to help schools improve, said Lily Eskelsen, secretary-treasurer for the National Education Association. That union represents 2.7 million teachers.

Eskelsen, who will be in Indianapolis on Saturday for an Indiana State Teachers Association meeting, said change is overdue. "We have been banging on the door of this administration for two years."

Call Star reporter Kim L. Hooper at (317) 444-6494.

— By Kim L. Hooper



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