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Schools hurt by federal policy

Tribune

No one will publicly state that the purpose of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act is to set up public schools for failure, which in turn will pave a path for the public to join the charter school bandwagon.

The federal mandate is a ludicrous piece of legislation that harms students, teachers and districts. The federal government should have little or nothing to do with education. It is a state and local issue.

It took 165 years for this country to provide universal access to education. Now educators are expected to have universal success in 14 years. Hogwash.

Who are we kidding to think or expect every child will be successful. When it comes to learning we were not all created equal.

The federal act requires each district to improve incrementally each year so that by the 2013-14 school year 100 percent of the students are performing at proficient or advanced levels. There are five levels in the California plan.

Each state submitted a plan to the feds. California for the most part went with what was in place. But what the state required was more of a gradual improvement plan with the assumption not everyone would reach the level of proficiency desired in time allowed. The federal act makes the standards for language arts and math be absolute without wiggle room.

Educators in Lake Tahoe Unified and Douglas County school districts have no problem being accountable for what they are doing in the classroom and the district office. What they question is why the federal government would set such unrealistic goals.

They are all for rigorous standards and goals. LTUSD Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis believes the standards California had in place before Bush came along were just fine. She is convinced public education is being set up to fail.

The peculiar thing about the No Child Left Behind Act is that every student is judged equally. This means special education students and those who are not native English speakers are lumped into the same category as “mainstream” students.

This cannot possibly work when one of the requirements to be classified special ed is to be working substantially below what you should be. It seems like basic math, but with this logic the president is spewing he would have us believe 1 + 1 = 3.

To expect a limited English learner to score as well as those who grew up speaking the language is unrealistic.

About 13 percent of the unified district’s students are classified special ed, while English language learners account for approximately 30 percent of the students.

The district is not failing, it is the federal government which is failing our students. Yes, there needs to be standards — even tough ones. But let’s be real — not everyone will succeed.

There is the threat of money being pulled from districts if they do not meet the federal guidelines. Right now LTUSD receives about $1.4 million a year in what is called title funding from the federal government. This goes toward programs to help disadvantaged youth be more successful.

Does anyone see how the feds seem to be speaking out of both sides of their mouth. On the one hand they give and with the other they taketh away.

There are plenty of problems with public education. The last thing we need is the federal government adding to them with laws that do not make sense.

Help students, but do it without an agenda which will in turn hurt public education. Charter schools have their place, but the federal government should not be undermining what is in place. If it must interfere, then let the folks in Washington do something positive for a change.


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